The Santa Barbara Film fest is in full swing. Jeff Wells has some nice coverage of last night’s tribute to Spotlight, with Michael Keaton and Rachel McAdams.
Audience Award for US Dramatic: Birth Of A Nation
U.S. Dramatic Competition, Grand Jury Prize: The Birth of a Nation
Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award: Chad Hartigan – Morris From America
Dramatic Directing Award: Daniel Scheinert, Daniel Kwan – Swiss Army Man
(Press Release) AFI FEST 2015 presented by Audi announces today the feature and short films receiving this year’s Jury and Audience Awards. The New Auteurs Grand Jury Award was presented to LAND AND SHADE, while DISORDER received a Special Jury Mention for Direction, and DESDE ALLÁ received a Special Jury Mention for Screenplay. BOYS received the Grand Jury Award for Live Action Short, and WORLD OF TOMORROW received the Grand Jury Award for Animated Short. This year’s Audience Award recipients in the New Auteurs, World Cinema and Breakthrough sections included MUSTANG, JAMES WHITE and MA. The full list of winners is below.
The Santa Barbara Film Fest will honor three from the Spotlight ensemble will be honored with the American Riviera Award. The film fest will be held February 3rd through February 13th. The SBIFF closes just as final ballots are being mailed to voters. Thus, it is expected that these contenders will get nominations. Even if they don’t, they are there to represent for the film, which is currently in the number spot to win Best Picture.
Press release as follows:
The Santa Barbara International Film Festival announced today that Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo and Rachel McAdams will be honored with the 2016 American Riviera Award at the 31st edition of the Fest, which runs from February 3 to February 13, 2016. This is the first time the award will be given to three honorees, who will be fêted with a Tribute celebrating their careers, culminating with their powerhouse collaboration in Tom McCarthy’s blisteringly true drama “Spotlight.” The film recently opened to critical acclaim. The Tribute will take place during the festival’s run at the historic Arlington Theatre.
The Savannah Film Festival gave me a chance to spend time outside the bubble of internet hysteria – a place every person should escape from time to time. Reality doesn’t happen with words typed on a screen, or the ever-increasing trauma of clickbait headlines, “Top Ten Ways Halloween is Secretly Killing You.” Watching mainstream news will offer no relief. No doubt, CNN is preparing for days and days of coverage of the downed airplane out of Egypt. Free floating anxiety is the name of the game in how most of us interface with our world. Until we don’t. Continue reading…
The Savannah Film Festival is doing something unique on the festival circuit. It’s giving back to the college that is at the heart of Savannah, Georgia by hosting the festival within and alongside the school. Savannah College of Art and Design, or SCAD, has transformed the city, at least by accounts from accounts of Savannah citizens I spoke with. Before SCAD moved in, Savannah was crippled by poverty and crime. Once the film school moved in, they started buying old buildings, renovating them, and little by little the town became a full blown college town, thriving and continuing to grow. It hasn’t lost its character – it’s still the Savannah of old in many ways. You can’t go anywhere without someone having a long conversation with you in the eternally humid lazy afternoons. I didn’t go as far as sweet tea but I enjoyed the conversation, I have to admit, especially after spending so much of my time reading the hysterics of the internet. In many ways, we were not built to type into computers without filters. We were meant to speak to each other, looking into someone’s eyes and reading their reaction. Savannah is that kind of town.
Room is really on a roll — if you don’t think this film is headed for the Oscar race you have another think coming. It already won in Toronto and now it’s won the audience award at the Hamptons Film Fest. Meanwhile, Tom McCarthy’s Spotlight and Michael Moore’s Where to Invade Next just took the audience awards at the Middleburg film fest. And Brooklyn picked up the Audience Award at the Vancouver Film Festival.
(Press Release), LOS ANGELES, CA, October 21, 2015 — The American Film Institute announced today the films that will screen in the World Cinema, Breakthrough, Midnight, Shorts and Cinema’s Legacy programs at AFI FEST 2015 presented by Audi. AFI FEST will take place November 5–12, 2015, in the heart of Hollywood. Screenings, Galas and events will be held at the historic TCL Chinese Theatre, the TCL Chinese 6 Theatres, Dolby Theatre, the Lloyd E. Rigler Theatre at the Egyptian, the El Capitan Theatre and The Hollywood Roosevelt.
World Cinema showcases the most acclaimed international films of the year; Breakthrough highlights true discoveries of the programming process; Midnight selections will grip audiences with terror; and Cinema’s Legacy highlights classic movies and films about cinema. World Cinema and Breakthrough selections are among the films eligible for Audience Awards. Shorts selections are eligible for the Grand Jury Prize, which qualifies the winner for Academy Award® consideration. This year’s Shorts jury features filmmaker Janicza Bravo, producer Keith Calder and the British Film Commission’s Tara Halloran.
The AFI FEST program features 127 films (74 features, 53 shorts), representing 45 countries. The breakdown by section is: Galas/Tributes (5), Special Screenings (7), American Independents (9), New Auteurs (11), World Cinema (29), Midnight (3), Breakthrough (5), Cinema’s Legacy (5) and Shorts (53), and includes 38 films directed/co-directed by women, 17 documentaries, 10 official Foreign Language Film Oscar® submissions and 10 animated short films.
The program will also present 18 films from 39 AFI Conservatory Alumni including THE 33 writer Michael Thomas (AFI Class of 1978); 45 YEARS editor Jonathan Alberts (AFI Class of 2001); ANOMALISA director/producer Duke Johnson (AFI Class of 2006), cinematographer Joe Passarelli (AFI Class of 2006); CAROL editor Affonso Gonçalves (AFI Class of 1993); FREE IN DEED cinematographer Ava Berkofsky (AFI Class of 2013); FUNNY BUNNY director Alison Bagnall (AFI Class of 1994); LAST DAYS IN THE DESERT director/writer Rodrigo García (AFI Class of 1986); SON OF SAUL cinematographer Mátyás Erdély (AFI Class of 2005); and more. A complete list of AFI Conservatory Alumni at AFI FEST can be seen here.
AFI FEST 2015 will also showcase the four films by AFI Conservatory filmmakers from the Class of 2014 that were finalists in the Narrative category of this year’s Student Academy Awards, including the three that made history by sweeping all medal placements in the category: Henry Hughes’ gold medal winner DAY ONE, silver medal winner THIS WAY UP by Jeremy Cloe, bronze medal winner STEALTH directed by Bennett Lasseter and finalist AGAINST NIGHT by Stefan Kubicki.
Many films by returning AFI FEST directors are also featured this year, including CHEVALIER by Athina Rachel Tsangari, CHRONIC by Michel Franco, THE CLAN by Pablo Trapero, DHEEPAN by Jacques Audiard, FREE IN DEED by Jake Mahaffy, FUNNY BUNNY by Alison Bagnall, HITCHCOCK/TRUFFAUT by Kent Jones, THE LOBSTER by Yorgos Lanthimos, MACBETH by Justin Kurzel, QUEEN OF THE DESERT by Werner Herzog, RIGHT NOW, WRONG THEN by Hong Sang-soo, TALE OF TALES by Matteo Garrone, THE TREASURE by Corneliu Porumboiu, A WAR by Tobias Lindholm, THE WHITE KNIGHTS by Joachim Lafosse and NO HOME MOVIE by the late Chantal Akerman.
As previously announced, the Opening Night Gala will be the World Premiere of BY THE SEA (DIR Angelina Jolie Pitt) on Thursday, November 5. Among the Centerpiece Galas will be WHERE TO INVADE NEXT (DIR Michael Moore) on Saturday, November 7; THE 33 (DIR Patricia Riggen) on Monday, November 9; and the World Premiere of CONCUSSION (DIR Peter Landesman) on Tuesday, November 10. The Closing Night Gala will be the World Premiere of THE BIG SHORT (DIR Adam McKay) on Thursday, November 12. Also previously announced are the nine films in the American Independents section, which represents the best of independent filmmaking this year, and 11 films in the New Auteurs section, which highlights first and second-time narrative feature film directors from around the world.
AFI FEST remains the only global event of its caliber to offer free individual tickets to screenings and events as a gift to the community. These free tickets will be available to the general public online at AFI.com beginning Monday, October 26. Available for purchase now at AFI.com are AFI FEST Patron Packages and Express Passes — which can include access to sold-out Galas and other high-demand films and events.
As part of their membership benefit, AFI members will receive a complimentary AFI FEST Cinepass, which allows access to all regular screenings at this year’s festival. Additionally, AFI members at the Two-Star level and above receive a 10% discount on all AFI FEST Patron Packages and Express Passes. Information about AFI membership is available at AFI.com/membership and AFI FEST Packages and Passes may be purchased here.
For the 12th consecutive year, AFI FEST is proud to have Audi as the presenting sponsor. Additional top sponsors include AT&T; American Airlines, the official airline of AFI; and VIZIO, the official home theater sponsor of AFI. The festival’s venue sponsors include TCL Chinese Theatres, Dolby Theatre, the Hollywood & Highland Center, The Hollywood Roosevelt and the Egyptian Theatre. Official media sponsor Time Out LA will once again offer its online AFI FEST guide of their film picks, where to dine and drink in Hollywood and much more.
WORLD CINEMA SELECTIONS (29 Titles)
The World Cinema section showcases the most acclaimed international films of the year.
AFERIM! – This Romanian Western is an odyssey through the landscape of feudal Eastern Europe, following a father and son on a mission to find a gypsy. DIR Radu Jude. SCR Radu Jude, Florin Lazarescu. CAST Teodor Corban, Mihai Comanoiu, Cuzin Toma, Alexandru Dabija, Alexandru Bindea, Luminița Gheorghiu, Victor Rebengiuc, Alberto Dinache, Mihaela Sîrbu. Romania/Bulgaria/Czech Republic
BLOOD OF MY BLOOD (SANGUE DEL MIO SANGUE) – In this dual narrative, lust plays out in a 17th-century convent and a modern-day count lives a bizarre life within those same walls. DIR Marco Bellocchio. SCR Marco Bellocchio. CAST Roberto Herlitzka, Pier Giorgio Bellocchio, Lidiya Liberman, Fausto Russo Alesi, Alba Rohrwacher, Federica Fracassi, Alberto Cracco, Bruno Cariello, Toni Bertorelli, Filippo Timi, Elena Bellocchio, Ivan Franek, Patrizia Bettini, Sebastiano Filocamo, Alberto Bellocchio. Italy/France/Switzerland. U.S. Premiere
CHEVALIER – In this wonderfully absurdist farce, six men at sea play a strange game that measures every aspect of who they are. DIR Athina Rachel Tsangari. SCR Athina Rachel Tsangari, Efthimis Filippou. CAST Yorgos Kentros, Panos Koronis, Vangelis Mourikis, Makis Papadimitriou, Yorgos Pirpassopoulos, Sakis Rouvas, Yiannis Drakopoulos, Nikos Orfanos, Kostas Philippoglou. Greece
CHRONIC – Tim Roth stars as an end-of-life caregiver who struggles with the intense relationships he develops with his patients. DIR Michel Franco. SCR Michel Franco. CAST Tim Roth, Robin Bartlett, Michael Cristofer, Sarah Sutherland, Nailea Norvind, Rachel Pickup, David Dastmalchian, Bitsie Tulloch. Mexico/France
THE CLAN (EL CLAN) – Argentina’s submission for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar® follows the vicious crime saga of the notorious Puccio family. DIR Pablo Trapero. SCR Pablo Trapero. CAST Guillermo Francella, Peter Lanzani, Lili Popovich, Gastón Cocchiarale, Giselle Motta, Franco Masini, Antonia Bengoechea, Stefania Koessl. Argentina/Spain
THE CLUB (EL CLUB) – At a bucolic seaside home for aging priests, the arrival of a new member unearths long-buried secrets about the Catholic Church. DIR Pablo Larraín. SCR Guillermo Calderón, Daniel Villalobos, Pablo Larraín. CAST Alfredo Castro, Roberto Farías, Antonia Zegers, Jaime Vadell, Alejandro Goic. Chile
DHEEPAN – In this 2015 Cannes Palme d’Or winner, a refugee concocts a fake family to gain passage to France — but his violent past still haunts him. DIR Jacques Audiard. SCR Noé Debré, Thomas Bidegain, Jacques Audiard. CAST Jesuthasan Antonythasan, Kalieaswari Srinivasan, Claudine Vinasithamby, Vincent Rottiers, Marc Zinga. France
EMBRACE OF THE SERPENT (EL ABRAZO DE LA SERPIENTE) – This hypnotic epic follows the journey of a shaman and a German explorer in the Colombian Amazon. DIR Ciro Guerra. SCR Ciro Guerra, Jacques Toulemonde Vidal. CAST Jan Bijvoet, Brionne Davis, Nilbio Torres, Antonio Bolívar, Yauenkü Miguee. Colombia/Venezuela/Argentina
FREE IN DEED – When a young mother brings her special-needs son to a local storefront church for healing, a Pentecostal minister is forced to confront his own demons. DIR Jake Mahaffy. SCR Jake Mahaffy. CAST David Harewood, Edwina Findley, RaJay Chandler, Preston Shannon, Prophetess Libra, Helen Bowman, Zoe Lewis, Kathy Smith. USA/New Zealand. North American Premiere
IN THE SHADOW OF WOMEN (L’OMBRE DES FEMMES) – Master French filmmaker Philippe Garrel returns with this gentle, profound tale of a Parisian couple dealing with mutual infidelity. DIR Philippe Garrel. SCR Jean-Claude Carrière, Caroline Deruas, Arlette Langmann, Philippe Garrel. CAST Clotilde Courau, Stanislas Merhar, Lena Paugam, Vimala Pons, Antoinette Moya, Jean Pommier, Thérèse Quentin, Mounir Margoum, Louis Garrel. France/Switzerland
THE LADY IN THE VAN – Maggie Smith stars as a cantankerous yet eloquent homeless woman who sets up residence on the curb outside the home of a single writer. DIR Nicholas Hytner. SCR Alan Bennett. CAST Maggie Smith, Alex Jennings, Frances De La Tour, Roger Allam. UK
LANDFILL HARMONIC – In a landfill community in Paraguay, inhabitants turn trash into unique instruments for a world-touring orchestra of young musicians. DIR Brad Allgood, Graham Townsley. USA
A MONSTER WITH A THOUSAND HEADS – A Mexican woman with a cancer-stricken husband embarks on a series of increasingly violent confrontations with uncaring insurance stakeholders and bureaucrats. DIR Rodrigo Plá. SCR Laura Santullo. CAST Jana Raluy, Sebastián Aguirre Boëda, Hugo Albores, Nora Huerta, Daniel Giménez Cacho, Emilio Echeverria, Ilya Cazés, Noé Hernández, Verónica Falcón. Mexico. North American Premiere
MOUNTAINS MAY DEPART – Jia Zhang-ke’s tender, melancholic epic follows a capitalist Chinese family over a quarter-century of intense change. DIR Jia Zhang-ke. SCR Jia Zhang-ke. CAST Zhao Tao, Zhang Yi, Liang Jin Dong, Dong Zijian, Sylvia Chang, Han Sanming. China/France/Japan
EL MOVIMIENTO – In this stark black-and-white vision of anarchy, groups of armed men belonging to “The Movement” cause havoc on a war-scarred landscape. DIR Benjamín Naishtat. SCR Benjamin Naishtat. CAST Pablo Cedrón, Marcelo Pompei, Francisco Lumerman, Céline Latil, Alberto Suarez, Agustin Rittano. Argentina. U.S. Premiere
MY GOLDEN DAYS – Upon a man’s arrival home after years away abroad, he reflects on his youth, spent with little parental guidance, and ultimately a turbulent love affair. DIR Arnaud Desplechin. SCR Arnaud Desplechin, Julie Peyr. CAST Quentin Dolmaire, Lou Roy-Lecollinet, Mathieu Amalric, Dinara Drukarova. France
NAHID – A poor Iranian mother enters a “temporary marriage” with a well-off hotelier — with devastating results. DIR Ida Panahandeh. SCR Ida Panahandeh, Arsalan Amiri. CAST Sareh Bayat, Pejman Bazeghi, Navid Mohammad Zadeh, Milad Hossein Pour, Pouria Rahimi, Nasrin Babaei. Iran
NEON BULL (BOI NEON) – A young cowboy working the Brazilian rodeo circuit dreams of becoming a famous fashion designer. DIR Gabriel Mascaro. SCR Gabriel Mascaro. CAST Juliano Cazarré, Aline Santana, Carlos Pessoa, Maeve Jinkings. Brazil/Uruguay/Netherlands
NO HOME MOVIE – The late Chantal Akerman’s sweet, melancholic ode to her mother, an Auschwitz survivor, is about home and the wild places beyond it. DIR Chantal Akerman. SCR Chantal Akerman. Belgium
OUR LITTLE SISTER (UMIMACHI DIARY) – At a family patriarch’s funeral, three sisters make the impulsive decision to invite their much younger half-sister to live with them in the city. DIR Hirokazu Kore-eda. SCR Hirokazu Kore-eda. CAST Haruka Ayase, Masami Nagasawa, Kaho, Suzu Hirose. Japan
PARADISE – In this powerful film, shot guerrilla-style on the streets of Tehran, a violent act throws the life of a 25-year-old woman into turmoil. DIR Sina Ataeian Dena. SCR Sina Ataeian Dena. CAST Dorna Dibaj, Fateme Naghavi, Fariba Kamran, Nahid Moslemi, Roya Afshar. Iran/Germany
RAMS (HRUTAR) – Two estranged brothers in rural Iceland must come together when a fatal outbreak strikes their sheep herds. DIR Grímur Hákonarson. SCR Grímur Hákonarson. CAST Sigurður Sigurjónsson, Theodór Júlíusson, Charlotte Bøving. Iceland
RIGHT NOW, WRONG THEN (JIGEUMEUN MATGO GEUTTAENEUN TEULLIDA) – In Hong Sang-soo’s latest, a director spends 24 hours with an attractive artist. This story then repeats itself midway through the film, but with important variations. DIR Hong Sang-soo. SCR Hong Sang-soo. CAST Jung Jae-young, Kim Min-hee. South Korea
SON OF SAUL (SAUL FIA) – This sparse yet resonant film, set in Auschwitz near the end of World War II, follows an internee on a mission to give a young boy a proper burial. DIR László Nemes. SCR László Nemes, Clara Royer. CAST Géza Röhrig, Levente Molnar, Urs Rechn, Todd Charmont, Sándor Zsotér, Marcin Czarnik, Jerzy Walczak, Uwe Lauer, Christian Harting, Kamil Dobrowlski, Amitai Kedar, István Pion, Juli Jakab, Levente Orbán. Hungary
SWEET BEAN (AN) – In this heartwarming yet subtle tale, an aging Japanese woman brings surprise success to a small bakery with her special homemade recipe. DIR Naomi Kawase. SCR Naomi Kawase. CAST Nagase Masatoshi, Kiki Kirin, Uchida Kyara. Japan
TALE OF TALES (IL RACCONTO DEI RACCONTI) – From the director of GOMORRAH, this collection of three ancient fairy tales features a star-studded cast set against the backdrop of Italy’s greatest wonders. DIR Matteo Garrone. SCR Edoardo Albinati, Ugo Chiti, Matteo Garrone, Massimo Gaudioso. CAST Salma Hayek, Vincent Cassel, Toby Jones, Shirley Henderson, Hayley Carmichael, Bebe Cave, Stacy Martin, Christian Lees, Jonah Lees, Guillaume Delaunay, Alba Rohrwacher, Massimo Ceccherini, John C. Reilly. Italy
THE TREASURE (COMOARA) – A financially struggling family man enters into a crackpot plan to find buried treasure in this masterfully deadpan comedy. DIR Corneliu Porumboiu. SCR Corneliu Porumboiu. CAST Cuzin Toma, Adrian Purcarescu, Corneliu Cozmei, Cristina Toma, Nicodim Toma. France/Romania
A WAR – When a routine mission in Afghanistan turns ugly, a company commander must make an impossible decision to save his men. DIR Tobias Lindholm. SCR Tobias Lindholm. CAST Pilou Asbæk, Tuva Novotny, Dar Salim, Søren Malling, Charlotte Munck, Dulfi Al-Jabouri. Denmark. U.S. Premiere
THE WHITE KNIGHTS (LES CHEVALIERS BLANCS) – This drama from Joachim Lafosse centers on the 2007 Zoé’s Ark scandal, when a French NGO illegally trafficked orphans out of war-torn Africa. DIR Joachim Lafosse. SCR Joachim Lafosse, Bulle Decarpentries, Thomas Van Zuylen. CAST Vincent Lindon, Valérie Donzelli, Reda Kateb, Louise Bourgoin, Rougalta Bintou Saleh. France/Belgium
MIDNIGHT SELECTIONS (3 Titles)
These dark and macabre films from around the world will grip audiences with terror.
BASKIN – A squad of Turkish policemen become entrapped in the basement of a cult of Devil-worshipping amputees. DIR Can Evrenol. SCR Can Evrenol, Cem Ozuduru, Ogulcan Eren Akay, Ercin Sadikoglu. CAST Gorkem Kasal, Ergun Kuyucu, Muharrem Bayrak, Mehmet Fatih Dokgoz, Sabahattin Yakut, Mehmet Cerrahoglu. Turkey
DER NACHTMAHR – A teenage girl who experiences severe nightmares makes a meaningful connection with a strange creature that has been haunting her. DIR AKIZ. SCR AKIZ. CAST Carolyn Genzkow, Kim Gordon, Julika Jenkins, Arnd Klawitter, Wilson Gonzalez Ochsenknecht, Alexander Scheer, Sina Tkotsch. Germany
SOUTHBOUND – In this refreshing take on the horror anthology, a series of characters encounter sinister forces on an isolated desert road. DIR Roxanne Benjamin, David Bruckner, Patrick Horvath, Radio Silence. SCR Roxanne Benjamin, Susan Burke, Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, David Bruckner, Dallas Hallam, Patrick Horvath. CAST Chad Villella, Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Kristina Pesic, Fabianne Therese, Nathalie Love, Hannah Marks, Dana Gould, Susan Burke, Davey Johnson, Anessa Ramsey, Mather Zickel, Fabianne Therese Karla Droege, Zoe Cooper, Roxanne Benjamin, Justin Welborn, David Yow, Tipper Newton, Matt Peters, Maria Olsen, Tyler Tuione, Kate Beahan, Gerald Downey, Hassie Harrison, Larry Fessenden. USA
BREAKTHROUGH SELECTIONS (5 Titles)
The Breakthrough section is dedicated to the true discoveries of the programming process. It exists as a platform for artists at a crucial stage in their career to share their innovative work with enthusiastic audiences.
THE LIAR – In this tightly wound thriller, beautiful, immaculately dressed Ah-young attempts to fool everyone into believing that she has it all. She doesn’t. DIR Kim Dong-myung. SCR Kim Dong-myung. CAST Kim Kkobbi, Chun Sin-hwan, Lee Sun-hee, Le Da-hae, Jang Seo-ee, Shin Yeon-suk, Kwon Nam-hee, Han Jin-hee. Korea
MA – Director Celia Rowlson-Hall uses her background as a choreographer to create MA, a modern-day retelling of Mother Mary’s pilgrimage. DIR Celia Rowlson-Hall. SCR Celia Rowlson-Hall. CAST Celia Rowlson-Hall, Andrew Pastides, Amy Seimetz, Matt Lauria, Peter Vack. USA. U.S. Premiere
THE MYSTERIOUS DEATH OF PÉROLA (A MISTERIOSA MORTE DE PÉROLA) – A young student, living alone in an old apartment, begins to lose herself in loneliness until reality merges with dreams. DIR Guto Parente. SCR Guto Parente. CAST Ticiana Augusto Lima, Guto Parente. Brazil/France. North American Premiere
NECKTIE YOUTH – Set in Johannesburg, South Africa, this bristling debut looks at a group of millennials, all peripherally related to a wealthy white teen who commits suicide. DIR Sibs Shongwe-La Mer. SCR Sibs Shongwe-La Mer. CAST Bonko Khoza, Sibs Shongwe-La Mer, Colleen Balchin, Kamogelo Moloi, Emma Tollman, Jonathan Young, Kelly Bates, Ricci-Lee Kalish, Giovanna Winetzki. Netherlands/South Africa
THOSE WHO FEEL THE FIRE BURNING – This poetic experimental documentary captures with raw force the modern migrant experience in Europe, as seen through the eyes of a deceased shipwreck victim. DIR Morgan Knibbe. SCR Morgan Knibbe. Netherlands
CINEMA’S LEGACY SELECTIONS (5 Titles)
Now in its third year, Cinema’s Legacy is AFI FEST’s celebration of motion picture history, and a special opportunity to screen both classic films and films about the history of cinema.
FLYING DOWN TO RIO (1933) – Dolores Del Río, the glamorous face of AFI FEST 2015, stars in this pre-Code musical with Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers and fabulous song-and-dance routines. DIR Thornton Freeland. SCR Cyril Hume, H.W. Hanemann, Erwin Gelsey. CAST Dolores Del Rio, Gene Raymond, Raul Roulien, Ginger Rogers, Fred Astaire, Blanche Frederici, Franklin Pangborn, Eric Blore. USA
THE FORBIDDEN ROOM – Winnipeg filmmakers Guy Maddin and Evan Johnson search the human subconscious in this cinematic head-trip. DIR Guy Maddin, Evan Johnson. SCR Guy Maddin, Evan Johnson, Robert Kotyk. CAST Roy Dupuis, Clara Furey, Louis Negin, Mathieu Amalric, Geraldine Chaplin, Amira Casar, Charlotte Rampling, Karine Vanasse, Jacques Nolot, Udo Kier. Canada
HITCHCOCK/TRUFFAUT – For one week in 1962, French New Wave auteur François Truffaut interviewed the master of suspense, Alfred Hitchcock. DIR Kent Jones. SCR Kent Jones, Serge Toubiana. CAST Martin Scorsese, David Fincher, Arnaud Desplechin, Wes Anderson, James Gray, Richard Linklater, Olivier Assayas, Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Peter Bogdanovich, Paul Schrader. France/USA
SAFETY LAST! (1923) – In Harold Lloyd’s brilliant and most famous film, the great silent comedian plays a small-town bumpkin in the big city who plans a breathless publicity stunt to attract attention for the department store where he works. DIR Fred C. Newmeyer, Sam Taylor. SCR Hal Roach, Sam Taylor, Tim Whelan. CAST Harold Lloyd, Mildred Davis, Bill Strother, Noah Young, Wescott Clarke. USA
SEMBENE! – In this intimate documentary, the work of Senegalese filmmaker Ousmane Sembène is spotlighted, showing why he came to be known as the Father of African Cinema. DIR Samba Gadjigo, Jason Silverman. Senegal/USA
SHORTS SELECTIONS (53 Titles)
BAD AT DANCING – A perpetual third wheel and awkward outsider inserts herself into her roommate’s relationship. DIR Joanna Arnow. SCR Joanna Arnow. CAST Eleanore Pienta, Keith Poulson, Joanna Arnow. USA
BLOOD BELOW THE SKIN – Three teenage girls from different social circles form unexpected bonds when they discover the secrets that lie below the skin. DIR Jennifer Reeder. SCR Jennifer Reeder. CAST Jennifer Estlin, Kelsey Ashby-Middleton, Morgan Reesh, Tj Jagodowsky, Marissa Castillo. USA
BOYS (POJKARNA) – At a home for wayward boys, Markus prepares for a very important appointment. DIR Isabella Carbonell. SCR Isabella Carbonell, Babak Najafi. CAST Sebastian Hiort af Ornäs, Marcus Lindgren, Rainer Gerdes. Sweden
BUS NUT – The 1955 Montgomery bus boycott is articulated as an educational video on school bus safety. DIR Akosua Adoma Owusu. CAST MaameYaa Boafo. USA
COLOR NEUTRAL – A color explosion sparkles, bubbles and fractures in this handcrafted 16mm short from film artist Jennifer Reeves. DIR Jennifer Reeves. USA
DRAGSTRIP – A moment or two before the race. DIR Daniel Claridge, Pacho Velez. USA
E.T.E.R.N.I.T – A Tunisian immigrant working in asbestos removal must make a radical choice in the name of his family. DIR Giovanni Aloi. SCR Nicolo Galbiati. CAST Ali Salhi, Serena Grandi, Alessandro Castiglloni, Mohamed Omar Abd Rabou, Youssef Tarek, Stefano Piumi, Alessandro Palumbo, Andrea Pompa, Roberta Madeo. France
EVERYTHING WILL BE OKAY (ALLES WIRD GUT) – A divorced father picks up his eight-year-old daughter. It seems like every second weekend, but something isn’t right. DIR Patrick Vollrath. SCR Patrick Vollrath. CAST Simon Schwarz, Julia Pointner. Germany/Austria
THE EXQUISITE CORPUS – Based on various erotic films and advertising rushes, myriad fragments are melted into a single sensuous, humorous, gruesome and ecstatic dream. DIR Peter Tscherkassky. Austria
FRANKENSTEIN’S BRIDE (LA NOVIA DE FRANKENSTEIN) – At her summer job, Ivana learns it’s easy to create a circle of lies, fiction and love when you’re bored. DIR Francisco Lezama, Agostina Gálvez. SCR Francisco Lezama, Agostina Gálvez. CAST Miel Bargman, Renzo Cozza, Claudia Cantero, Mariel Fernández, Jair Jesús Toledo. Argentina
FUCKKKYOUUU – A lonely girl finds love and rejection with her past self in this alluring collaboration with Flying Lotus. DIR Eddie Alcazar. SCR Eddie Alcazar. CAST Jesse Sullivan, Charles Baker. USA
GRAND FINALE – The end of a Fourth of July evening in Detroit. DIR Kevin Jerome Everson. USA
GROUP B – A rally car driver mounts a comeback after a long and troubled absence. DIR Nick Rowland. SCR Joe Murtagh. CAST Richard Madden, Michael Smiley, Dominic Wolf, Andrei Alen, Matthew Jure, Stephen Bent, Alexander Cambell. UK
HALF WET – A man with large pores tries to escape the realization that he’s slowly evaporating. DIR Sophie Koko Gate. UK
I REMEMBER NOTHING – An epileptic seizure told in five phases. DIR Zia Anger. SCR Zia Anger. CAST Audrey Turner, Eve Alpert, India Menuez, Adinah Dancyger, Lola Kirke. USA
LANCASTER, CA – A portrait of love in the California desert. DIR Mike Ott. SCR Cory Zacharia. CAST Cory Zacharia, John Brotherton. USA
THE LITTLE DEPUTY – Trevor tries to have his photo taken with his father. DIR Trevor Anderson. SCR Trevor Anderson. CAST Trevor Anderson, Luke Oswald, Rob Chaulk, Trevor Schmidt, Lynn Anderson. Canada
MAMAN(S) – Eight-year-old Aida and her family are thrown into chaos when her father returns from Senegal with a new wife. DIR Maïmouna Doucouré. SCR Maïmouna Doucouré. CAST Sokhna Diallo, Maimouna Gueye, Azize Diabate, Mareme N’dlaye, Eriq Ebouaney, Maissa Toumoutou, Aida Diallo, Khemissa Zarouel. France
MANOMAN – Beware what lies within. DIR Simon Cartwright. SCR Simon Cartwright. CAST Gordon Pearson. UK
MARYLAND PUBLIC TELEVISION INTERVIEWS THE REAGANS – The President nails an interview. Featuring: The First Lady and surprise guest. DIR Pacho Velez. USA
MYNARSKI DEATH PLUMMET (MYNARSKI CHUTE MORTELLE) – A handmade historical micro-epic and psychedelic photochemical war picture about self-sacrifice, immortality and jellyfish. DIR Matthew Rankin. SCR Matthew Rankin. CAST Alek Rzeszowski, Robert Vilar, Annie St-Pierre, Louis Negin. Canada
OBJECT – A hypnotic underwater search from the point of view of the rescue team, the diver and the people waiting on shore. DIR Paulina Skibińska. SCR Paulina Skibińska. Poland
OF THE UNKNOWN – In Hong Kong, millionaires and the working poor live side by side. DIR Eva Weber. UK/Hong Kong
PALM ROT – An old Florida fumigator comes face to face with a mysterious threat. DIR Ryan Gillis. SCR Ryan Gillis. CAST Greg Tonner. USA
PATTERN FOR SURVIVAL – A key ingredient in any survival situation is the mental attitude of the individuals involved. DIR Kelly Sears. USA
THE PETER CASSIDY PROJECT – In 1972, a reporter and his team attempt to discover the truth behind an infamous director and the controversial advertisements he directed in the late ’60s. DIR Noah Lee. SCR Noah Lee. CAST Peter Falls, Lewis Pullman, Eden Brolin. USA
PINK GRAPEFRUIT – A young married couple, two single friends and a long weekend in Palm Springs. DIR Michael Mohan. SCR Chris Levitus, Michael Mohan. CAST Wendy McColm, Nathan Stewart-Jarrett, Nora Kirkpatrick, Matt Peters. USA
POSTINDUSTRIAL – Eleven floors of thoughts held tight by iron brackets. DIR Boris Pramatarov. Bulgaria
PYROMANCE – A lonely pyrotechnician finds an unlikely spark on the eve of the 4th of July fireworks show. DIR John de Menil. SCR John de Menil. CAST Paul McCarthy Boyington, Anna Khaja, Brantley Black, Karen Strassman. USA
RATE ME – A portrait of a teen escort comes to life via online user reviews. DIR Fyzal Boulifa. SCR Fyzal Boulifa. CAST Zehra Zorba. UK
THE RETURN OF ERKIN – A man just released from a long-term prison discovers that his former life has vanished, never to return. DIR Maria Guskova. SCR Maria Guskova. CAST Kahramonjon Mamasaliyev. Russia
REVIEW – A young woman recounts a story to a group of friends who listen with rapt attention, but the tale sounds very familiar. DIR Dustin Guy Defa. USA
RONALD REAGAN LIGHTS THE LIGHTS – The President conducts a delicate task. DIR Pacho Velez. USA
RONALD REAGAN PARDONS A TURKEY – The President makes a tough call. DIR Pacho Velez. USA
SEA CHILD – A young girl on the verge of womanhood is consumed by nightmares. DIR Minha Kim. SCR Islay Bell-Webb. CAST Rachel Park. UK
SERENITY – Everyone remembers their first time. Everyone has regrets. DIR Jack Dunphy. SCR Jack Dunphy. CAST Jack Dunphy. USA
SHARE – The victim of an unspeakable act gone viral returns to high school. DIR Pippa Bianco. SCR Pippa Bianco. CAST Taissa Farmiga, Keir Gilchrist, Madisen Beaty, Andre Royo. USA
THE SUN LIKE A BIG DARK ANIMAL (EL SOL COMO UN GRAN ANIMAL OSCURO) – Even computers need love. DIR Ronnie Rivera, Christina Felisgrau. SCR Bernardo Britto, Ronnie Rivera. CAST Agustina Woodgate. USA
SWIMMING IN YOUR SKIN AGAIN – A film about motherhood, banality, Miami, the water, the divine feminine and how to sing in church in a way that calls forth your own adulthood. DIR Terence Nance. SCR Terence Nance. CAST Norvis, Jr., Hadassah Amani, Genoa O’Brien, Vickie Lynn Washington-Nance. USA
TAKE WHAT YOU CAN CARRY – When a young woman living abroad receives a letter from home, it’s what she needs to fuse her transient self with the person she’s always known herself to be. DIR Matthew Porterfield. SCR Matthew Porterfield. CAST Hannah Gross, Jean-Christophe Folly, Angela Schanelec, Gob Squad. USA
TEETH – That which is neglected, is lost. DIR Tom Brown, Daniel Gray. SCR Tom Brown, Daniel Gray. CAST Richard E. Grant. UK/Hungary/USA
THE FACE OF UKRAINE: CASTING OKSANA BAIUL – Adorned in pink sequins, little girls from war-torn Ukraine audition to play the role of Olympic champion figure skater Oksana Baiul. DIR Kitty Green. SCR Kitty Green. Ukraine/Australia
TRACKS – An amateur skateboarder is left to care for his girlfriend’s young daughter on the day of a championship tournament. DIR Logan Sandler. SCR Logan Sandler, Carly Stone. CAST Keith Stanfield, Lana Schwartz, Dominique Razon. USA
TUESDAY (SALI) – An ordinary school day for a teenage girl in Istanbul. DIR Ziya Demirel. SCR Ziya Demirel, Buket Coşkuner. CAST Melis Balaban. Turkey/France
TWELVE TALES TOLD – The dream factory folds in on itself. DIR Lurf Johann. Austria
TWO FILMS ABOUT LONELINESS – A split screen separates two distinct worlds that are closer than they appear. DIR William Bishop-Stephens, Christopher Eales. SCR William Bishop-Stephens, Christopher Eales. CAST Tim Key, Detlef Bierstedt. UK
UNDER THE SUN (RI GUANG ZHI XIA) – An attempted act of kindness sets two families on an irrevocable collision course from which there is no return. DIR Qiu Yang. SCR Qiu Yang. CAST Zhu Ping, Sun Zhongwei, Bai Lihong, Gong Weiming. Australia/China
VICTOR XX – In a small seaside town, a young person makes a personal discovery when they experiment with their gender. DIR Ian Garrido. SCR Ian Garrido. CAST Alba Martínez, Shei Benzidour, Yolanda Cruz. Spain
VOLTA (BOATA) – Nina is told she is just going for a walk. DIR Stella Kyriakopoulos. SCR Stella Kyriakopoulos. CAST Marissa Triandafyllidou, Katerina Douka, Giorgos Valais. Greece
WAVES ’98 – Omar is lured into the depths of segregated Beirut. Isolated from reality, he struggles to keep his sense of home. DIR Ely Dagher. SCR Ely Dagher. CAST Elie Bassila. Lebanon/Qatar
WORLD OF TOMORROW – A little girl is taken on a mind-bending tour of the distant future in the latest opus from Don Hertzfeldt. DIR Don Hertzfeldt. SCR Don Hertzfeldt. CAST Julia Pott, Winona Mae. USA
YELLOW FIEBER – Athens was covered in a strange yellow dust. No one expected what was about to happen. DIR Konstantina Kotzamani. SCR Konstantina Kotzamani. CAST Mamadou Diallo, Eytuchia Stefanidou. Greece
YOLO – Filmed in the remains of Soweto’s historic Sans Souci Cinema (1948-1998), YOLO is a makeshift structuralist mash-up created in collaboration with the Eat My Dust youth collective. DIR Ben Russell. USA/South Africa
Funny how time appears to us from different perspectives. It’s all the same, in truth, and not in that True Detective ‘time is a flat circle’ way. More in that Nostalgia for the Light way, where one realises that, by the time your senses have gotten around to recording the information they’ve obtained, by the time it has made the journey up to your brain, by the time your brain has gotten around to processing that information and alighting your awareness, by that time, it’s all history. It’s all in the past, as soon as you think it’s in the present. Ten days at the London Film Festival are all in the past, even as I’m here.
Actually, I’m not even here. I’m at home. It’s three days later. I’m recovering from a bug I picked up sharing a room with 19 strangers of different nationalities and their different latent viruses to which they’re each immune, exacerbated by a plane-full of sickly white Irish people coughing their entire summers up over the encroaching cold. I guess that’s all in the past too, though it sure doesn’t feel like it, even as I recover from two days almost solidly spent in bed.
London isn’t too far back for me to remember now, though, not too deeply entrenched in my histories for me to recall with the same silly salacity and waffling wankery that you’ve become accustomed to over the past fortnight – you, my one, sole, beloved reader, my darling, my dearest, my love. Please don’t ever leave me, like London did! Please stay! Please lie a little longer, to embrace, to snuggle, to gently slip it in, dry and unannounced, just the tip baby, just the tip. It’s all I can take, for now, if there even is a now. Or ram the whole thing in, who cares? It’s all in the past, remember?
I remember the horn that develops after five days separated from my boyfriend almost like I have it right now… Funny how those five days seemed so much more manageable when they were the future than when they were the present than when they are the past. It was a time that my barely-dormant depression decided to creep back in, alerting me to the ephemerality of the pleasures I encounter in life. Those pleasures, while in London, were the films I encountered, 20 of them excluding the two I saw outside of the festival in my spare (not rly) time. And they were pleasurable, save a small few.
Only one such pleasure today, after a mad rush to the airport last year that I was determined to avoid this year, and boy did I avoid it! After checking out of my dear, dreary hostel, there was a morning’s worth of sightseeing and writing to be done, though Day Seven stans will recall a search for a KFC that resulted in success this very morning, success that nixed most of the sightseeing and postponed the writing until after my first film of the day and last of the festival, Terence Davies’ Sunset Song. Nice to end on something so nice, as I’d supposed. Whenever did Terence Davies not make me feel all nice inside? Whenever were his embraces not warm and gentle, not just the tip but the whole shaft, so sweet and forgiving?
Sunset Song is a good film, but it’s not good Terence Davies. It’s not a great film, and he’s a great filmmaker. His manner(ism) matches with Lewis Grassic Gibson’s manner in an unflattering style – too distanced in Davies’ detached sentimentality and Gibson’s antiquated literariness. And yet it’s a beautiful film to behold, laden with one fine performance after another and written with keenness of character and earnestness of political affinity that seems to have drawn Davies to the novel and that eventually drew me into the film, albeit too late to entirely win me over. Terence Davies will win me over again, I’m sure. Agyness Deyn may too, if she should be provided the opportunities to continue to develop her ability as an actor; she’s impressive in Sunset Song’s demanding lead role,
I knew I could take my time this afternoon – indeed, I knew that if I didn’t take my time, I’d be ambling around the arrivals desks at Stansted Airport with nowhere to go and nothing to do. There was plenty of time, thus, to finish up my LFF coverage on my blog, Screen On Screen, and to take care of the little, menial, necessary things, like having lunch, going to the toilet (with a schedule this tight for this length of time, going to the toilet becomes something you have to make time for), reading emails, perusing gossip sites. And yet the universe still found a way to punish me upon eventual arrival at Stansted – a delayed plane that kept on getting more delayed as the night drew on, stupid, staring children and their stupid, defensive parents, incapable of admitting to the fact that their treasured offspring is actually behaving like a cunt, overpriced airport food that I just had to have anyway because what else was there to do? You can always tell which people in your departure lounge will be taking your flight when your flight is Belfast-bound: they’ll either be exclusively white or extremely pink, they’ll be attired in a variety of shades of black and brown, in a variety of textures of fleece and denim, and they’ll all look like they wish they’d never even left Northern Ireland. Fine, stay there then. When the sea levels rise and this rotten little corner of civilisation sinks under the waters, stay then too. Take your judgements and your bigotry and your ignorant interpretation of spirituality and drown them.
No rly, that’s how my LFF 2015 experience ended. After 20 films, most of them excellent, and 10 days, many of them enjoyable, I was returned to Belfast with an increasingly nasty cough and two unpopped ears (I’m still a bit deaf now, 60 hours later). But I’ll choose to remember, since it’s all in the past now. I’ll close with my verdict on 2015’s slate chez SOS:
Screen On Screen @ Awards Daily’s Best of LFF 2015!
- Best Film: The Assassin (runner-up: Park Lanes)
- Best Directing: Hou Hsiao-Hsien for The Assassin (runner-up: Evan Johnson and Guy Maddin for The Forbidden Room)
- Best Performance: Ralph Ineson for The Witch (runner-up: Kwon So Hyun for Madonna)
- Best Writing: Phyllis Nagy for Carol (runner-up: Aleksey German for Under Electric Clouds)
- Best Technical / Artistic Achievement: Lee Ping Bin for The Assassin – cinematography (runner-up: Elena Okopnaya for Under Electric Clouds – art direction)
Day nine’s first film started early, so I’ll start early on it. I arrived early enough at BFI Southbank to finish up a few articles from late last night, though too late to grab a front row seat for Kevin Jerome Everson’s Park Lanes, screening in the cinema’s Studio screen – my favourite for its warm, atmospheric intimacy. The screening, we hardy cinephiles were informed, was sold out, so we ought to expect latecomers – some never materialised. Everson was present to introduce the film, inspired by his childhood town of Mansfield, Ohio – a factory town where he had once worked in making washing machines. All very mundane so far, so why the 9am start? It’s a working day, you see. The film was scheduled to finish at 5pm… 480 minutes later.
That kind of runtime doesn’t constitute a regular cinematic experience. It’s a different form of watching required to appreciate it – I guess if you’ve got it, and the film’s receptive to your receptiveness, 8 hours is a sizeable stretch of time over which to form a profound connection with a film. I’d endure Park Lanes countless times over. I’d awaken earlier than 7am to do so. I’d forego a free lunch, provided for us despite my expert planning, which included specific pre-judgements of when to consume each item that I’d purchased beforehand, and how much to consume at each interval. The generous BFI were looking out for the masochists among us, then, surprising the fools who hadn’t come prepared with a selection of wraps and sandwiches. I ate a fair few of them, and all of my own food too as the lights came up slightly for the mid-film meal, Everson’s film still playing on the screen.
You see, Park Lanes features a 31-minute lunch scene, at approximately 275 minutes in. Everson shot his documentary over three days in a factory in Virginia that makes bowling alley supplies, editing the footage down to resemble that of the average working day. It’s a transfixing experience and yet a distancing one, enlightening the viewer to the supreme conceptual artistry that both lies behind such a premise and emerges from its product. You can find some more fully-fleshed thoughts of mine in the review I wrote on my blog; here, I’ll move onto an AD exclusive…
The Q&A! Bless the London Film Festival and all its Q&As, which I was gladly able to attend in full today, though they were once more held at their Southbank cinema where no photographs are permitted inside the screens any more. And another exclusive: a Paddy Mulholland first, posing not just any question to the filmmaker but the very first question to the filmmaker! Experimenta programmer for the festival, Helen DeWitt, drew so much out of this funny, verbose, intelligent director that the small audience was duly inspired to bombard him with queries, all of which he responded to in great detail. He had been inspired to make such a long film by the works of Lav Diaz, the admission of which made my heart basically barge out of my chest and envelop the world. He believed that Diaz’s immensely long narrative films contained a depth of humanity in their extended edits that was unique to films of such a duration. I wondered, then, what he made of my interpretation of Park Lanes and how it differed from other works of ‘slow cinema’, of which Diaz is a key proponent – those films generally require intense concentration in order to fully appreciate, whereas Everson’s film almost encourages daydreaming and interruption, such is the accuracy with which he has created a snapshot of real, boring factory work. I was pleased to hear him concur, explaining that he too would allow his thoughts to digress when watching these labourers at their tasks. He went on to explain that the project had initially been conceived as a museum piece, designed to last for the full length of the museum’s opening hours; that he believes as few as 20 people stayed for the full film over five screenings at the Rotterdam Film Festival earlier this year; that he even designed a box set for the film in another of its nixed incarnations, with one disc per hour and a ninth for the ‘best bits’. It was an exhaustive, engaging and humorous response to a question which the mere act of asking had sent me into a tremor.
What to make of this Q&A session, which was so incredibly immersive, much like the film that preceded it. The audience learnt so much, eager to remain in the seats they’d occupied for a third of a full day just to hear more and more about its themes, its production, anything that Kevin Jerome Everson would elaborate upon next. There’s a 70-minute edit of the film stacked with corporate secrets that didn’t make the final cut; some of the more abstract shots in the 480-minute edit weren’t approved either but were sneaked in. Everson chose not to include any material shot in the factory’s offices, considering its inhabitants ‘lovely but uninteresting’, before reconsidering and deciding that it was he who was ‘uninteresting’; this street photographer, sculptor, painter and print maker referred to the notion that the portrait is not about the subject but about the painter. His background in art informed his interest in the workers’ tools, in the processes of creating these bowling alley supplies – a process whose purpose he was keen to conceal until into the film’s second half, appreciating the abstraction of this approach. Funding was acquired via commission from the Virginia Film Office, which also scouted and selected the factory in which the film was shot. It was a non-union factory, 10-hour shifts Monday to Friday. Everson referred to his time working in a factory in his hometown in Ohio, a union factory in the north of the US, though little did that matter. All of Everson’s 16mm shorts are entitled ‘A Saturday Night in Mansfield’ – Saturday nights were black nights at the bowling alley. His Mason-Dixon line is the Canadian border.
The second screening for this most satiated of cinephiles today was Ben Rivers’ The Sky Trembles and the Earth Is Afraid and the Two Eyes Are Not Brothers. I didn’t enjoy Rivers’ last film, a collaboration with Ben Russell somewhat more conservatively-titled A Spell to Ward Off the Darkness. But this film looked intriguing nevertheless, and I was free this evening so it became one of my 20 bookings – number 19, chronologically. I was sat among London’s hipster elite, their ages and dress senses varying but their levels of pretension certainly not. The gentleman two seats to my left kept his hand on his partner’s leg – her far leg – unnaturally long given the awkwardness of the position. The film was introduced by Rivers, producer Jacqui Davies, the executive producer of Artangel, the arts organisation in which a part of The Sky Trembles forms a short film installation within a former exhibition, sound designer Philippe Ciombi – yes, the sound designer, who oddly remained mute – and the sort-of documentary’s sort-of lead actor and also fellow filmmaker, himself making the film that’s an actual film within this film, Oliver Laxe. Laxe is the type of fellow you’d imagine would be an amazing fuck, but then you’d get him in bed and he’d be too concerned with making art out of the sex to actually make anything good out of it (kind of like this film). That’s why insecure people are the best lays – they rly fucking appreciate it.
I had high hopes but low expectations for the film – probably the ideal combination to set oneself up for disappointment. It was desperately pretentious, perhaps even worse than A Spell to Ward Off the Darkness, but this audience predictably adored it, if their besotted post-screening questions to Ben and Oliver were anything to go by. Most of what I wrote in my notebook during the film amounted to questions, observations on the film that I was hoping would be resolved later into it and that my tentative judgements – that this was all just obtuse for the sake of it? Art for the sake of art, whether good or bad? Could it just be me, am I the only one in the world, are my opinions just completely invalid? – would turn out to be misinformed. I’ve spent much of my time at LFF this year reconciling myself with films that are just great films in and of themselves, insular and unconcerned with relevance or any broader cultural significance; until Park Lanes, all of my favourite films here had fit such a model. And here comes The Sky Trembles to prove that art for the sake of art can be a pretty fucking dreadful thing and everyone should stop attempting it unless their name is Hou Hsiao Hsien, whom I believe probably doesn’t even attempt it himself.
Ben Rivers spoke, or tried to, at the Q&A – he seemed half shy, half unclear on how to give any kind of meaningful response to a film that seemed so sure that it did have a meaning, but that surely did not. Maybe there’s one in the concept of cinema as an illusion, but it’s hardly as groundbreaking as the tone of reverence adopted by enraptured audience members and Q&A director Helen DeWitt would suggest. My sympathy was briefly won over when Rivers spoke of the film’s animals, but no further. Those poor ponies.
Other things happened today, like all the boring shit I’ve written about every other day. Other things will happen tomorrow, like a screening of Terence Davies’ Sunset Song to wrap my LFF 2015 experience up, and a journey home to be reunited with Thomas. So enjoy this boring shit while it lasts, readers! And then follow me on Twitter @screenonscreen, kk?
AFI Fest has announced that they are adding Michael Moore’s Where to Invade Next and Patricia Riggen’s The 33 as Centerpiece Gala presentations. They are also adding special screenings of Anomalisa, Carol, Last Days in the Desert, The Lobster, MacBeth and Queen of the Desert.
The AFI fest is really the last gasp of festival season and can showcase films right before ballots are sent out. The big splashy galas have celebrities in attendance and big parties, which can generate buzz as with Selma and American Sniper last year, both films that still came a bit too late to really compete in the race but still made it in due to the rallying of their publicity teams.
Press release as follows:
LOS ANGELES, CA, October 19, 2015 — The American Film Institute (AFI) announced today that two more Centerpiece Galas will screen at AFI FEST 2015 presented by Audi. WHERE TO INVADE NEXT, directed by Michael Moore, will screen on Saturday, November 7 at the Lloyd E. Rigler Theatre at the Egyptian. THE 33, directed by Patricia Riggen and starring Antonio Banderas, Rodrigo Santoro, Juliette Binoche, James Brolin, Lou Diamond Phillips, Mario Casas, Juan Pablo Raba, Adriana Barraza, Kate del Castillo, Cote de Pablo, Bob Gunton and Gabriel Byrne, will screen on Monday, November 9 at the TCL Chinese Theatre.
AFI FEST has also revealed today its Special Screenings section, which will feature 45 YEARS (DIR Andrew Haigh); ANOMALISA (DIR Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson, AFI Class of 2006); CAROL (DIR Todd Haynes); LAST DAYS IN THE DESERT (DIR Rodrigo García, AFI Class of 1986); THE LOBSTER (DIR Yorgos Lanthimos); MACBETH (DIR Justin Kurzel); and QUEEN OF THE DESERT (DIR Werner Herzog).
Available for purchase now at AFI.com are AFI FEST Patron Packages — which include access to sold-out Galas and other high-demand films and events — and Express Passes.
Also among the Centerpiece Galas, as previously announced, will be the World Premiere of CONCUSSION (DIR Peter Landesman) on Tuesday, November 10. The Opening Night Gala will be the World Premiere of BY THE SEA (DIR Angelina Jolie Pitt) on Thursday, November 5 and the Closing Night Gala will be the World Premiere of THE BIG SHORT (DIR Adam McKay) on Thursday, November 12. The full festival lineup and schedule will be unveiled on Wednesday, October 21. The 29th edition of AFI FEST will take place November 5–12, 2015, in the heart of Hollywood. Screenings and Galas will be held at the historic TCL Chinese Theatre, the TCL Chinese 6 Theatres, Dolby Theatre, El Capitan Theatre, the Lloyd E. Rigler Theatre at the Egyptian and The Hollywood Roosevelt.
Opening Night Gala
BY THE SEA – Angelina Jolie Pitt directs and stars alongside Brad Pitt in this 1970s tale of a couple struggling to save their marriage while on vacation in a seaside town. DIR Angelina Jolie Pitt. SCR Angelina Jolie Pitt. CAST Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie Pitt, Mélanie Laurent, Melvil Poupaud, Niels Arestrup, Richard Bohringer. USA. World Premiere
CONCUSSION – Will Smith stars as Dr. Bennet Omalu, who went up against the NFL to raise awareness about football-related brain trauma. DIR Peter Landesman. SCR Peter Landesman. CAST Will Smith, Alec Baldwin, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Arliss Howard, Paul Reiser, Luke Wilson, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, David Morse, Albert Brooks. USA/Australia/UK. World Premiere
THE 33 – The harrowing true story of a group of Chilean miners trapped for more than two months underground, and the international teams who worked to save them. DIR Patricia Riggen. SCR Mikko Alanne, Craig Borten and Michael Thomas (AFI Class of 1978). CAST Antonio Banderas, Rodrigo Santoro, Juliette Binoche, James Brolin, Lou Diamond Phillips, Mario Casas, Jacob Vargas, Adriana Barraza, Kate del Castillo, Cote de Pablo, Bob Gunton, Gabriel Byrne. USA/Chile
WHERE TO INVADE NEXT – An expansive, rib-tickling and subversive comedy in which Moore, playing the role of “invader,” visits nations to learn how the US could improve its own prospects in this hilarious and eye-opening call to arms. DIR Michael Moore. USA
Closing Night Gala
THE BIG SHORT – Christian Bale, Ryan Gosling, Steve Carell and Brad Pitt star as four men who predicted and bet on the global financial crash when no one else saw it coming. DIR Adam McKay. SCR Adam McKay, Charles Randolph. CAST Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Brad Pitt, Melissa Leo, Hamish Linklater, John Magaro, Rafe Spall, Jeremy Strong, Marisa Tomei, Finn Wittrock. USA. World Premiere
45 YEARS – British screen icons Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay give brilliant performances in this devastating tale of a marriage upended by a long-buried secret. DIR Andrew Haigh. SCR Andrew Haigh. CAST Charlotte Rampling, Tom Courtenay, Geraldine James, Dolly Wells, David Sibley, Sam Alexander, Richard Cunningham, Hannah Chambers, Camille Ucan, Rufus Wright. UK
ANOMALISA – Charlie Kaufman’s and Duke Johnson’s unique tale of isolation and interior life centers on a custome r service guru who spends a bizarre night in Cincinnati. DIR Charlie Kaufman, Duke Johnson. SCR Charlie Kaufman. CAST Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tom Noonan, David Thewlis. USA
CAROL – Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara give luminous performances in Todd Haynes’ gorgeous love story set in postwar New York City. DIR Todd Haynes. SCR Phyllis Nagy. CAST Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara, Sarah Paulson, Kyle Chandler, Jake Lacy, Cory Michael Smith. UK
LAST DAYS IN THE DESERT – Ewan McGregor gives a stunning dual performance as Jesus and the Devil in this rich and sublime tale of Christ’s 40 days in the desert. DIR Rodrigo García. SCR Rodrigo García. CAST Ewan McGregor, Ciarán Hinds, Susan Gray, Tye Sheridan, Ayelet Zurer. USA
THE LOBSTER – Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz, Léa Seydoux and John C. Reilly star in this science-fictional tale of a world where single people must romantically couple within 45 days or be turned into animals. DIR Yorgos Lanthimos. SCR Yorgos Lanthimos, Efthimis Filippou. CAST Colin Farrell, Jessica Barden, Rachel Weisz, Olivia Colman, Ashley Jensen, Ariane Labed, Aggeliki Papoulia, John C. Reilly, Léa Seydoux, Michael Smiley, Ben Whishaw. Ireland/UK/France/Greece/Netherlands.
MACBETH – Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard and director Justin Kurzel deliver a haunting, visually stunning adaptation of Shakespeare’s classic tragedy. DIR Justin Kurzel. SCR Todd Louiso, Jacob Koskoff, Michael Lesslie. CAST Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, David Thewlis, Paddy Considine. UK
QUEEN OF THE DESERT – Nicole Kidman stars in Werner Herzog’s epic true story of explorer, cartographer and archaeologist Gertrude Bell. DIR Werner Herzog. SCR Werner Herzog. CAST Nicole Kidman, James Franco, Damian Lewis, Robert Pattinson. UK. North American Premiere
AFI FEST remains the only global event of its caliber to offer free individual tickets to screenings and events as a gift to the community. These free tickets will be available to the general public online at AFI.com beginning Monday, October 26.
Over the weekend, I was invited to attend the 1st Annual Laguna Film Festival, which was launched by 18-year-old Austin Fickman, son of one of the festival’s judges and sponsors, Andy Fickman of Oops Doughnuts Productions. Fickman (the younger) has been a film nerd all of his life and had the most popular film club at his high school before launching the festival, which is designed to showcase emerging filmmakers from all over the world.
The judges for the films were industry professionals, like agents, producers, casting directors, and writers. Some of them spoke at the festival’s panel on “Hollywood Today.” The film’s opening night featured a short short starring Bryce Dallas Howard called Solemates. A doc short called Curt, which will be contending for Oscar short, about a 50 year-old surfer diagnosed with autism.
Dreamworks has a new short called Taking Flight, directed by Brandon Oldenberg who won the Oscar two years ago for The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore, and Winter Light, directed by Julian Higgins. The opening night was the biggest event, followed by a full day of screenings for the selected shorts, which were then voted on by audience participants.
One of the subjects at the Hollywood Today panel was whether VOD would overtake theatrical release films that were not tent poles necessarily but closer to the ground human stories. It’s easy to be cynical about how things are going in Hollywood, but the fact that an 18 year-old wanted to start a film festival to foster up-and-coming talent is a good sign that all hope is not lost.
Of the films I saw, which was half of the drama shorts and the animated shorts – none of which are competing for Oscars – just a quick shout out to the two best ones. Cry of the Fox, Directed by Jason Ronzani and Ning Xu is just an exceptional work of claymation and stop motion animation and had all of the necessary elements to be a good short – story, suspense, emotional impact, plus great animation. The other one was called Unspoken, directed by Eric Otten. This is a very well written, acted and directed short that tells a complete story with a deaf woman caring for her mother who has early onset dementia or Alzheimer’s. There is so much going on in such a short amount of time I figure this Eric Otten is going places.
For more info on the Laguna Fest, visit the website.
BFI London Film Festival announces 2015 winners in Official Competition, First Feature Competition, Documentary Competition and Short Film Competition:
- Chevalier – Athina Rachel Tsangari, wins Best Film Award
- The Witch – Robert Eggers, wins Sutherland Award (Best First Feature)
- Sherpa – Jennifer Peedom, wins Grierson Award (Best Documentary)
- An Old Dog’s Diary – Shai Heredia and Shumona Goel, wins Best Short Film Award
- Cate Blanchett received the BFI Fellowship, presented by Ian McKellen
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London – 17 October 2015: The 59th BFI London Film Festival in partnership with American Express® announced this year’s Festival Awards’ winners at its high profile Awards ceremony, at Banqueting House, Whitehall, this evening. Hosted by musician and broadcaster Jarvis Cocker, guests included Alex Cooke, Allen Leech, Brian Woods, Christine Vachon, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Daisy Jacobs, Desiree Akhavan, Elizabeth Karlsen, Finola Dwyer, Harriet Walter, Iain Forsyth, James Vanderbilt, James Kent, Jane Pollard, Joe Wright, Kate Dickie, Kathleen Kennedy, Kristin Scott-Thomas, Mabel Cheung, Martin Freeman, Patricia Cheng, Pawel Pawlikowski, Runa Islam, Shezad Dawood, Sandy Powell, Sylvia Chang, Stephen Woolley, Topher Grace, and Ian McKellen, who presented the BFI Fellowship to this year’s recipient Cate Blanchett.
OFFICIAL COMPETITION WINNER – BEST FILM: CHEVALIER – Athina Rachel Tsangari
Recognising inspiring, inventive and distinctive filmmaking, the winner of the Best Film Award, went to Tsangari’s CHEVALIER, a biting, playful dissection of the male ego, featuring six men on a boat. The award was announced by president of the Official Competition jury, Pawel Pawlikowski, whose Ida won the LFF Best Film prize in 2013.
Pawel Pawlikowski said “Chevalier is a study of male antagonism seen though the eyes of a brave and original filmmaker. With great formal rigour and irresistible wit, Athena Rachel Tsangari has managed to make a film that is both a hilarious comedy and a deeply disturbing statement on the condition of western humanity”.
Pawlikowski’s fellow jurors were Christine Vachon (producer of CAROL, this year’s American Express Gala), the BAFTA-winning and Oscar® & Golden Globe nominee Chiwetel Ejiofor, the BAFTA-winning and Oscar® nominee Kristin Scott-Thomas, and Chinese director and screenwriter Mabel Cheung whose A TALE OF THREE CITIES, featured in this year’s programme.
FIRST FEATURE COMPETITION WINNER – SUTHERLAND AWARD: Robert Eggers for The Witch
The long-standing Sutherland Award is presented to the director of the most original and imaginative first feature in the Festival, and this year’s winner is Robert Eggers’ THE WITCH about a 17th century New England family torn apart by tension and the suspicion of witchcraft. The nominations were introduced by actor Allen Leech and the winner announced by jury president, director/screenwriter Desiree Akhavan, whose feature debut, Appropriate Behaviour featured in the 2014 LFF programme.
Desiree Akhavan, said “This year’s Sutherland Award nominees were a bold group of beautifully crafted first features. Of the nominated films, one stood apart as the announcement of a new voice in contemporary cinema. A horror film that felt as though it were reinventing the genre with each frame and truly shocking moments that evoke both terror and empathy. With an impressive command of cameras as well as truly heartbreaking performances – it presented a fresh, feminist take on a timeless tale”
The jury also commended Martin Butler & Bentley Dean’s TANNA saying “It’s a rare skill to give a voice to a typically marginalized community that doesn’t condescend or patronize and for this reason the jury would like to give special mention to Tanna”.
Akhavan’s jury comprised BAFTA-nominated director and Fine Artist Clio Barnard, who won the Sutherland Award in 2010 for her feature debut The Arbor, James Kent, the director of last year’s Centrepiece Gala supported by the Mayor of London, Testament of Youth, actor Allen Leech (The Imitation Game), and chief film critic of The Times, Kate Muir.
DOCUMENTARY COMPETITION WINNER – GRIERSON AWARD: SHERPA, directed by Jennifer Peedom
The Grierson Award for the best documentary recognises outstanding feature-length documentaries of integrity, originality, technical excellence or cultural significance. The award went to Peedom’s gripping and urgent documentary which indelibly captures tragedy and mayhem on Mount Everest. Grierson trustee and documentary filmmaker Alex Cooke announced the winner.
The jury said “We are taken into the lives, homes and families of the Sherpas, who have for too long been overlooked and exploited, dependent for their livelihoods on an increasing number of tourists who sometimes regard them as little more than owned slaves. We’re left with an appreciation of the sacrifices the Sherpa community have made for over 6 decades. We applaud this impressive film for giving voice to a previously voiceless community, and we hope it reaches the wide, general audience that it deserves”.
The Documentary Competition jury were documentary filmmaker and ex-director of EIFF Mark Cousins, whose I AM BELFAST was presented at the Festival, with fellow jurors, award winning documentary filmmaker Brian Woods, Guardian head of documentaries and previous deputy director of Sheffield DocFest, Charlie Phillips and London-based artists and filmmakers Iain Forsyth & Jane Pollard, whose first documentary feature 20,000 Days on Earth, won directing and editing awards at Sundance last year and the Douglas Hickox Award for Best Debut Director at the BIFAs.
SHORT FILM COMPETITION WINNER – BEST SHORT FILM AWARD: AN OLD DOG’S DIARY, directed by Shai Heredia and Shumona Goel
This year saw the inaugural presentation of the Best Short Film Award which recognises short form works with a unique cinematic voice and confident handling of chosen theme and content. The award went to An Old Dog’s Diary, a lyrical film portrait of Francis Newton Souza, one of the key Indian artists of the 20th-century, inspired by his personal writings, letters, drawings and possessions., the award was presented by Shezad Dawood and Daisy Jacobs and collected by Chantal and Dev Pinto of the Xandev Foundation on behalf of directors Shai Heredia and Shumona Goel.
Daisy Jacob, jury president said “An Old Dog’s Diary is as poetic and soulful as its subject. It offers a fresh and original way of documenting the life of an artist. It looks beautiful, sounds beautiful, but, more than that, it tells us about the beauty of the human spirit.”
Jury president Daisy Jacobs is an Academy Award® nominee, whose The Bigger Picture featured in last year’s Festival and won the BAFTA for Best Short Animated Film. Her fellow jurors were the multi-media conceptual artist and filmmaker Shezad Dawood, short film producer and senior film programme manager at British Council Will Massa, director Tom Green, whose Monsters: Dark Continent marked his feature debut at last year’s Festival and British visual artist, filmmaker and Turner Prize nominee Runa Islam.
BFI FELLOWSHIP Cate Blanchett (as previously announced)
This year’s BFI Fellowship was presented to Cate Blanchett by her friend and co-star of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit films Ian McKellen.
Earlier in the evening Blanchett attended the UK Premiere of TRUTH, which screened as the Fellowship Special Presentation film in honour of the award. Based on the book “Truth and Duty” by Mary Mapes, TRUTH tells the incredible story of Mary Mapes, an award-winning CBS News journalist and Dan Rather’s 60 Minutes producer and the risks she took to expose a story on the then President George W. Bush.
Blanchett also attended the Festival for Todd Haynes’ CAROL, presented as this year’s American Express Gala.
May I begin with an apology? Do I even need to? I told one Ryan Adams, whom you might know, that I’d do my best to attend a little luncheon or something similar with a variety of international filmmakers whose films are screening this year at the London Film Festival. It was to be held in the May Fair Hotel, so naturally they wouldn’t have let my scabby ass half way through the door, but despite not seeing any of the films of the directors who’d be in attendance at the times I was available, I rly did want to go. But then, that’s not rly me. I wonder if my articles read as shy… I’m much too shy in reality to turn up at such an event and hobnob with some actual real-life directors. I’m the guy who’s had at least one question to ask every director at every Q&A I’ve ever been to, and who’s never raised his hand once. Soz, Ryan. Just wasn’t up to it in the end.
You’ll forgive me, perhaps, for spending my free time in the cinema. Two out of the three days that I have three films scheduled on my trip this year, I choose to add a fourth to. On Tuesday, I saw Robert Zemeckis’ The Walk. Today, I saw Alejandro Amenabar’s Regression. I kinda had to see what all the fuss was about, or wasn’t about. There was a suitable time at Empire Leicester Square, the only cinema on the square that doesn’t host any LFF screenings and thus the only one I’d never been inside. The screen showing Regression was utterly miniscule – there weren’t even 30 seats – so I crunched my crisps with extra delicacy, careful not to disturb any of my fellow patrons, who were mostly slightly sad-looking middle-aged white men. They’re doing my job for me lbr, this shit writes itself. I’ll not give my verdict on the film, because it’s the same verdict that everyone had as soon as they saw the trailer, and also cos I cba, and you’ll find out why later.
It has been, without question, my busiest day, but there are so many necessary films released this month that I had to find time for Regression somewhere before I return to Belfast. But it was straight from Leicester Square to the Southbank for Patricio Guzman’s The Pearl Button, with just enough time in between to write a quick, sloppy review for a sloppy film. Thankfully, The Pearl Button, which Guzman introduced, wasn’t so sloppy, though nor was it as tight as Guzman’s last, Nostalgia for the Light. The Pearl Button is predictably pretty, and also sensitive and insightful – a documentary on Chile’s relationship with water, its topics ranging from the indigenous people of the land and their closeness to the water, to the country’s troubled political history and the abuses committed by the white settlers and their descendants, and to a biography of water itself, in a way. It’s all very earnest and very engaging, but poorly conceived – the connecting strands between these topics do exist, but Guzman fails to find a compelling way to develop those strands into robust-enough reasons to make a film out of them.
The post-screening Q&A (another BFI Southbank occasion, so no photographs were permitted), conducted with the assistance of an interpreter, was similarly earnest and similarly light on depth. Most interesting was the director’s opinion on the indigenous people whom he interviewed for the film: he admitted that they were likely unaware of the film as it exists currently, and may be unlikely ever to see it or comment upon it if they were to, though that their opinion of it does harbour some importance to him; the film is also for the Chilean people, as a method of forcing them to confront the difficulties in their past. He expressed a tacit approval of the sentiment of much of the country’s youth and their determination to destroy Pinochet’s constitution; one audience member was savvy in pointing out that the British government had supported the dictator, and that Margaret Thatcher had been his friend, and wondered if any of his fellow viewers had voted for her Conservative Party in the 1980s. Neither the Q&A host nor I seemed to think that there were particularly many; from my vantage point, I began to wonder if there might have been one or two. Scumbags.
Again, a mere few moments to pen a quick write-up on the film I’d just watched before hurrying off to the next one: Aleksey German’s Under Electric Clouds. This isn’t the Aleksey German you’re probably aware of, if you’re aware of any Aleksey German at all – German Sr., whose final film, Hard to Be a God, completed its 12-year production after its director’s death, screened at LFF last year and was one of my highlights. German Jr. helped to complete it whilst simultaneously working on Under Electric Clouds. Striking, the similarities between father and son as filmmakers – both share common interests in theme, technique and style, a gentle, flighty disinterest set against portentous metaphorical heft. It’s a most unusual manner of filmmaking, and one that’s an acquired taste. The person next to me evidently hasn’t acquired it – she fell asleep, started snoring, woke up and eventually left before the end. She missed a fairly excellent film, extremely dense but adequately comprehensible (and enjoyable) to appreciate on first viewing, while holding out a lot of promise for endless repeat viewings. If I have the time, ofc. Today, I do not.
There was a Q&A after the film, but it had started late and there’d been a lengthy introduction and I had too far to travel to my final screening of the day, so I skipped it. That’s two Q&As I’ve left early and one I’ve nixed from my plans altogether – not what I’d been aiming for when I’d taken a more sensible approach to devising my schedule this year, unfortunately. I’ll learn. Thankfully, that lengthy introduction from senior art director Elena Okopnaya (she appears second in the end credits, which gives you an idea of the value of her contribution to the film) and, briefly, actor Louis Franck (major bae) gave me a bit of contextual information about the film. The audience learned that the film was a Polish-Russian-Ukrainian co-production, filmed prior to the breakout of conflict in Eastern Ukraine. We were warned that the film was suffused with references to Russian mythology that we mightn’t recognise, though it was suffused with so much overall that this particular viewer was quite satiated. We were told to reject a conventional approach to watching the film, to instead embrace its non-linear structure and non-traditional style as if listening to a piece of music or observing a painting. We were informed that the film’s heroes were as such because they strayed from the pack, though not out of intention but out of necessity, that they were incapable of behaving any other way.
I ran much of the way out to Shoreditch, save the admittedly sizeable stretch spent on the tube, natch. Why didn’t I think of this when I booked these stupid films? The ones I need to start on time never do, the ones I want to be free of a Q&A that I’d only have to miss inevitably always have one etc. It takes a bloody age to actually reach the screens in Rich Mix Cinema anyway, which adds extra stress to the journey, never mind the queue of imbeciles I had to dawdle behind just to get a fucking Dr. Pepper, but I neeeeeeeded some snacks for the film. You know when people say they’re so busy they forgot to eat? Genuinely never heard such a bewildering statement in all my life. Just does not compute.
The third film from the festival today, and the fourth overall, was Shin Su Won’s Madonna. It’s the fourth and final female-directed title on my list this year, and the second of those four to be non-documentary. It’s also the second Korean film I’m seeing, after My Love, Don’t Cross That River, a markedly different film indeed; both these two comprise my only outings to Rich Mix this year, and while I’ve nothing in particular against this lovely little cultural centre, may these be the last such outings FOREVER! Madonna is like Ms. Ciccone’s Erotica – you totally love what it’s getting at, but the execution isn’t perfect. But who needs perfect? As the film builds humiliation upon disaster upon shame upon sadness upon degradation, it develops into a tirade against cultural and societal misogyny and the effects it has upon women’s opinions of their own worth. It’s scandalous and controversial, and the harder it gets to watch, the harder it hits. Shin’s film is firmly female-centric, and there are magnificent performances from leads Seo Young Hee and Kwon So Hyun. It’s very, very Korean, and I’m just so fucking white, so I found parts of it (specifically a first 15 minutes that feel inconsequential and a final 15 that feel redundant) a little frustrating, but I’m right there with Shin when she harnesses her outrage and crafts a suitably horrible film out of it.
I’ve finally gotten a review for Under Electric Clouds written, and now this diary entry too. The Madonna review will have to wait until late tomorrow. After my busiest day yet, I have a 7am start to catch a 9am screening of Kevin Jerome Everson’s 8-hour documentary Park Lanes tomorrow. Not even kidding. I guess it has to start at 9am, but this is just so not what I need. So everything else has to wait, including the next film – from the longest film at LFF 2015 to the longest film title, Ben Rivers’ The Sky Trembles and the Earth Is Afraid and the Two Eyes Are Not Brothers. The title of his last film was the best thing about it. Let’s hope things are all change chez Ben Rivers.
Follow me on Twitter @screenonscreen then get some fucking sleep fs
Funny how much more things seem to matter when you’ve got someone to share them with. Or maybe it’s not so funny, maybe it makes perfect sense, maybe you’ve simply got more things to actually do when someone else is present. Day six at the London Film Festival was my first full day unaccompanied this year, after my boyfriend Thomas departed for home yesterday afternoon. And, despite two excellent films, one large Big Mac meal and a swanky red carpet experience, it was probably my least eventful day so far. It was also among my least stressful too, up to a point, though while that’s likely good for my head and my heart, that’s rather not what I come to London for. Nice to have a break from all those things I had to do, but at least they mattered.
You wouldn’t care about my morning, even my early afternoon, like not even a psychiatrist would care about it, so I’ll get straight to the films, which ought to be of interest to most of AD’s readers. Still, even with Oscar winners and nominees galore, I can think of a few whose interest just won’t be piqued unless I reference a transformer or two (but I won’t). Film #1 was the first of two South-East Asian films on my LFF 2015 schedule, having named a Lav Diaz film my favourite of the festival in both of my last two years here. Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Cemetery of Splendour screened at Vue West End to a packed theatre with the director in attendance. In his introduction, he assured us that it was ok to fall asleep during the screening – not that I’d ever willingly do so, but night after night of inadequate sleep is definitely now beginning to catch up on me…
Weerasethakul’s statement made rather more sense when regarded in hindsight. Cemetery of Splendour is about sleep, and also about wakefulness, about life and about death, about dreams and reality, past and future, mysticism and mundanity, even mysticism in mundanity. It’s a typically beguiling film from this most distinctive of auteurs, a man whose interpretation both of cinema and of life (and whose blurring of the lines between the various opposites listed above quite deliberately render the line between cinema and life equally unclear) is entirely unique; much as I appreciated the immense artistry, the idiosyncrasy, the depth of beauty and of spirituality in Cemetery of Splendour, watching it made me somewhat envious of myself in my first experience of a Weerasethakul film, or anyone else discovering this marvellous talent for the first time.
The Observer’s Jonathan Romney conducted the post-screening Q&A with the kind of vaguely smarmy, indubitably well-informed swagger that one expects from an established, respected journalist, and declined to quiz his subject on such prescient details of the film as the hand cream that smells like cum, which is what I almost certainly would have done (if only to ask where I could acquire some, natch). It became increasingly clear that Weerasethakul’s assertion that this would be his final film made in Thailand was an earnest one – the joy he felt in returning to Khon Kaen, his hometown, to shoot a film in full there for the first time in his career was tempered by a notable sense of resignation and regret, for what this country has recently become. He described it as impossible not to censor oneself when participating in the act of filmmaking, and referenced the increasingly tense political situation in Thailand; one can detect quite clearly the disappointment he feels in his film, in the destructive encroachment of urbanity upon the city’s spiritual places, a disappointment that is all the more poignant for its rationality, as he isn’t just blindly bemoaning the natural and necessary progression of society, only certain incarnations of it. Of particular note is a scene in the film where the characters rise for the national anthem during the trailers for a film, only to be met with silence and darkness: a tribute to darkness, in a film full of light! Regular Weerasethakul DP Sayombhu Mukdeeprom was filming Miguel Gomes’ Arabian Nights, so Carlos Reygadas recommended his usual DP Diego Garcia, whom his director regarded as being especially sensitive to the colours of his country as a foreigner, and the film is a predictably sumptuous visual (and sonic) experience).
Speaking of sumptuous, what about Todd Haynes’ Carol? I thought 75 minutes before the American Express gala premiere woul suffice, that I’d have enough time to see the stars arrive on the red carpet before taking my seat myself. I guess I did see them… from rly fucking far away! Thankfully, the camera on my phone isn’t the worst, and I was near the front of the queue of ticket holders, though the crowds waiting out purely to see the stars had occupied an entire side of Leicester Square, so there was no chance of me sneaking a closer look from there, as there had been two years ago at the gala premiere of Inside Llewyn Davis. Inside Odeon Leicester Square, after passing close enough by the cast and crew on the walk down the red carpet to snatch a couple of shots, there was a bottle of water next to every seat, and a bottle of beer for me at the stall, because srsly when was the last time I chose to drink water? But you know what you get when you give a cinema full of people drinks? Mass exodus to the toilets during the film, further distracting me from the experience! They all seemed to walk in front of me at one point or another; this had been the first film of the 20 on my schedule that I’d booked tickets to when they were released, and having selected better seats several times only for the page to refresh minutes later telling me that those seats were no longer available, I had to settle for the ninth row near the side. Not the worst, though, and close enough to take a few more pictures when the cast and crew took to the stage.
I’d been expecting a post-screening Q&A; the questions were posed prior to the film instead. The Weinstein Company sure is pushing hard for Carol, having invited producers Elizabeth Karlsen, Stephen Woolley and Christine Vachon, director Todd Haynes, writer Phyllis Nagy, casting director Laura Rosenthal, production designer Judy Becker, costume designer Sandy Powell and actors Rooney Mara, Cate Blanchett, Kyle Chandler and John Magaro (the latter two of whom did not take to the stage) to the event, with a slew of women in attendance on the stage to be interviewed by festival director Clare Stewart, keeping up this year’s theme of strong women in film quite nicely. The questions were prosaic and the answers equally so, but the occasion possessed a rather delightful atmosphere, with all those talented women being feted after a similar occasion last Wednesday at the opening night premiere of Suffragette.
Carol is, naturally, a fucking masterpiece, and anyone who tells you otherwise obviously shouldn’t even be entitled to their opinion. This is not a film for people who don’t understand films, since all one requires is the most basic understanding of film in order to appreciate it. Like many other films that I’ve seen here this year, it seems to exist simply for the sake of existing – Carol has many messages if you want to take some from it, but its main purpose appears to be just an expression of beauty, of the capacity of cinema to entrance an audience, to transport them to another time, into the minds of other people. It’s thrillingly emotional and immaculately designed, perfectly performed and brilliantly adapted; at least a couple of scenes recalled the very best Ingmar Bergman scripts in how they expressed a vast range of deep feeling both in what was said and how it was said, and in what was unsaid. If you love cinema, even if you only like cinema, you must see Carol.
And then I lost my Oyster card, so no tube for me. It was going to run out on Friday morning anyway, but still. You might say I have a low emotional pain threshold, or you might say I’m mentally ill, and you’d be accurate on both; things like these – disappointments, losses, inconveniences – stress me out immeasurably, and this minor mistake caused me an inordinate amount of emotional pain. It’s just a fucking Oyster card! I purchased a new one and headed back to the hostel for a relatively early night, on a relatively uneventful day. But what a duo of films! Those were events enough to sustain me. Alas, after a pair of heavy-hitters today, let’s see what you think of tomorrow’s offerings. Heard of Brillante Mendoza’s Taklub? Good for you! Heard of Miranda Pennell’s The Host? Then you must be coming too, since here’s a film so obscure it doesn’t even have an IMDb page. And I thought today was uneventful…
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Time flies whether you’re having fun or not. Looking back on my stay in London so far, half way through my trip as I write this diary entry, it seems such a long time ago that I set off upon this journey, early earlier earliest Friday morning, yet where have those five days gone? They’ve gone by in countless tube journeys, films (not quite so countless) and hours’ sleep (who knows?), on screens projecting films which I will savour for many days and decades more and films which I’ll never care to watch again. These five days have been wonderful! May the next five days be equally wonderful too.
If I seem reflectively melancholy, it’s probably because I am. Ten days forking out for a film festival aren’t for everyone, least of all people with 9 to 5 jobs like Thomas. As I write this, he’s returned home and I’ve moved room, from our functional little double room to a cheaper, barely-functional 20x mixed dorm, the same room that Thomas rather reasonably disapproved of last year. It’s not the relative discomfort that bothers me, nor the solitude. I have films to look forward to, after all. It’s just the fact that Thomas has gone. That’s all. This is set to be the longest stretch of time that we’ve spent apart since we met nearly two years ago; we’ve enjoyed one another’s company at least briefly every day since March. I hope the next five days will be as wonderful as the first five, but I know they won’t.
Today was films out my arse, having slacked these last two days with only one film on each of them. I had three scheduled, so it was non-stop; outside of Thomas’ departure, the day was fairly uneventful otherwise (it didn’t have much time to be eventful), so I’ll get to it. Film #1 was one of the titles I’d most been looking forward to; ditto Thomas – Hou Hsiao Hsien’s The Assassin. I lost a bet on this winning the Palme d’Or at Cannes in May – it won the Prix de la Mise-en-Scene from the Coen brothers’ jury – but there were no hard feelings, only high expectations. You know the thrill of a film, or any experience indeed, not merely matching high expectations but exceeding them? I’d regret to raise any of you readers’ expectations too high, but I wonder where too high might even be, having seen a film reach such heights of artistry as this.
Hou introduced the film via a terse introductory message, but no need to regret his absence. We were in the presence of his genius, after all. Fascinating to witness his style adapt to a period piece, and that genre’s characteristics adapt to his style. Wondrous to witness a film so whole in its construction, with every aspect therein both complimenting and informing each other. Sublime to witness talent of this level create art of this level of beauty. It’s far from hyperbolic to proclaim The Assassin one of the most ravishing films of all time – this isn’t just any film, after all – since true brilliance is usually fairly easy to identify. No doubt we’ll all still agree with that assessment many years down the line.
One hour between film #1 and film #2 Is enough time to write a couple of reviews, attend to a few online obligations and fetch a small bucket of the most expensive popcorn in the world. Film #2 would be Lucile Hadzihalilovic’s Evolution. I know, right? Try saying that one! No rly, try. It’s worth trying, since it’s her fucking name, and no alternative pronunciation will suffice! The introducer, whose name I fittingly can’t remember, maybe ought to have tried, pronouncing it incorrectly on both utterances. After a wuxia film that was largely anything but, here’s a horror film that’s a little too , to prove that to its audience; in fact, Evolution shouldn’t be so overtly reliant on horror tropes and techniques, since it’s a story rich and deep in potential philosophical analysis, told by a filmmaker with obvious ability and strong stylistic intuition. What that story entails, I’ll leave to your imagination, since this is a film where little appears to happen, even as a lot actually does, and where much of it happens early on.
Hadzihalilovic wasn’t keen to explain too much either, even when prompted to by an audience member who considered some parts of the film ‘obscene’, though I’m not even certain that he meant that as a criticism. Her assertion that the film is only what you make of it personally is an oft-forgotten fact about all films (and one which The Witch director perhaps ought to consider, even if his film is superior), yet I found myself appreciating ever more Hadzihalilovic’s lengthy explanations for every other question she was posed. She revealed her struggles to find financing for the film (it’s been 11 years since her last, Innocence), and the surprising fact that those struggles only intensified when she positioned the project as a more conventional, narrative-driven, less-provocative prospect. She told of her inspiration for the story, stemming back to a mundane but frightening trip to the hospital for an appendectomy. She referenced the two films by Belgian directors Helene Cattet and Bruno Forzani, Amer and The Strange Colour of Your Body’s Tears, both of which I enjoyed immensely and would highly recommend, the latter of which was my final film at LFF two years ago – Cattet and Forzani’s go-to DP Manuel Dacosse was the cinematographer for Evolution, and Amer’s costume designer Jackye Fauconnier also designed the wardrobe for this film. And she echoed Nemes László’s preference for film from the Son of Saul Q&A two days back, noting that she and Dacosse had to work hard to achieve a film-like effect even while shooting on digital due to difficulties, striving to achieve a tactility to the imagery that emphasised the textures, alongside a lack of focus and clarity reminiscent of dreams
Then Thomas left.
More work, more reviews, more time to be spent as fully as possible before film #3, Evangelia Kranioti’s Exotica, Erotica, etc. A funny one, in many ways – a film I selected on the strength of its synopsis and accompanying image in the LFF programme, a documentary about the lives and experiences of seamen and the prostitutes they frequent on the ports of the world. Its title is a tad pretentious, it screened in the BFI Southbank (which forbids cameras, so no shots of the film’s stunning beauty of a director) in its Screen 3, which forbids all food and drink. Its director had to endure a repeat mispronunciation of her name too – it had to happen to the two women, didn’t it?! Rather pleased that I caught two films directed by women today, and the other one is centred around a woman. Exotica, Erotica, etc. is vaguely obtuse, incomparably beautiful in its dramatic documentary cinematography, a bit pedestrian and unadventurous at times, but a quality artistic experience nonetheless, and at under 75 minutes. Like Evolution, I warmed up to the film more after hearing its director discuss it – Kranioti was most eloquent, open and well-informed on her project. She would be – she had over 450 hours of footage to craft a film out of, a film which began life as a photography piece which Kranioti filmed motion footage for in order to aid her memory in the editing room, and which morphed into an actual motion picture part way through. It was a process of discovery for its director, who was the only crew member aboard the ships on which she filmed most of Exotica, Erotica, etc.’s material – its main character, Chilean sex worker Sandy, came to Kranioti around midway through production, though even as she changed its course, this was a film that only took any kind of form in the editing room. Among another of its most notable elements is a sailor whom Kranioti contacted after eight years, having remembered their very brief meeting all that time ago and deciding that his voiceover recollections would serve the film excellently.
So what does a busy film lover like me do after a busy day watching films? See another film, ofc! Thomas, like much of the rest of the world, wasn’t impressed by the promotional material for Robert Zemeckis’ The Walk – since I have the time to see it alone, and on an IMAX screen (Belfast no longer has one of those), I made the five-minute journey from BFI Southbank to BFI IMAX, where I’d had such a fantastic time watching The Forbidden Room on Friday, to see this new release. Since it’s not quite as relevant to my festival coverage as the other films I saw today, and since I’m tired af and it’s late af as I’m writing this, I’ll keep it brief: The Walk is an utterly shite work of utter magnificence. Examine each element of it equally and individually and you’ll conclude that it’s a complete stinker; one individual element of The Walk is more equal than the others, however, and the vertiginous high-wire and WTC-scaling sequences that make up the bulk of its second half are absolutely astounding, and among the finest filmmaking of the year. The trouble is, they’re set alongside some of the most risible filmmaking that I’ve seen this year too.
I’ll take it easier tomorrow. I think I’ll have to. So here’s what to expect: Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Cemetery of Splendour, followed by the UK premiere and the LFF American Express gala of Todd Haynes’ Carol. Don’t be jelly, dickheads.
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There’s not a deadline that can’t be met, nor one that can’t be missed, during my stay in London. The film festival will keep on running whether I publish my reviews in time or not, but will I keep on running? I didn’t particularly feel like it when I awoke this morning to the effects of four hours’ sleep and many more hours’ drinking beforehand. Today would be a relaxing day, I reasoned. I’ve just the one review to write from yesterday, and just the one film to see today, and surely the hangover would pass… please?
Surely enough, it did, and equally surely, it was of little consequence. Life will still find a way of making me work for my contentment, of pulling me back when I need to drive further forward, and vice versa. The deadlines I set myself will prove more steadfast than the ones which are set for me – turn up at 6:30pm for your film and you can bet you’ll be kept waiting an extra ten minutes. Miss my own time targets, set in motion a backlog of work that’s somehow been allowed to become a secondary concern, and time might as well stand completely still. I’m anal like that. I’m anal like a few other ways too…
That 6:30pm screening was for Robert Eggers’ The Witch. It’d be the second consecutive day in which I’d take in only one film, an odd scenario for me at this festival, and the second consecutive directorial debut, after yesterday’s Son of Saul from Nemes László. That gave my boyfriend Thomas and myself most of the afternoon to take things as easy as we liked, and to work our way through the things we don’t normally have such time to indulge in. Or it seemed that we’d been given most of the afternoon: whether or not I’d made the best use of my lie-in (I absolutely hadn’t), whether or not I stayed productive through the morning (I absolutely did), whether or not Thomas’ own hangover would subside soon enough to get started on the day (tbh it probably did, but he never let on), we still found ourselves bound by our 6:30 deadline. I had a diary entry and a review to write, wifi to seek out wherever I could, tubes to catch, food to eat, and only then would we have shopping to do.
I always look forward to shopping more than I eventually enjoy it. I won’t wear just anything, in fact I wear almost nothing from high street stores, and I can’t bear to part with large sums of money, certainly not when they’re wasted on some item of clothing I’ll either never wear or never want to wear. And I’d have liked a new fragrance, but I didn’t exactly need one, and they’re overpriced af. Given that Thomas’ lie-in took far too long, and that lunch then took even longer, my much-anticipated shopping trip today was shorter and less fruitful than expected. Which means that this part of the diary entry will be too.
The Witch! Now here’s something I hadn’t been so eagerly-anticipating. Not that I’d expected the film to be bad – after all, I chose to spend my money on this ticket – just that I hadn’t expected it to be this good. The fellow who introduced the screening repeated the same act he’d employed the previous year when introducing It Follows, a film which had slightly tarnished my opinion on arthouse American horror films, speaking in fanboy soundbites that the audience consumed with distressing delight. The film promised to be another slick, somewhat scary, intellectually empty horror movie – much like It Follows – it wasn’t among the 2015 titles I’d been most excited to see…
It’s a terrific film, minor lack of intellectual depth aside. Alas, it aspires only to a moderate level of such qualities, trading instead in well-pitched commentary on religion and familial relationships, and on the intersection between these two, and in an even better-pitched atmosphere, constructed with mastery by all involved. The score initially seems to overwhelm the film (in the post-screening Q&A, director Eggers spoke of his decision to include non-diegetic music at all, accurately deducing that there were emotional elements not articulated by the film unless this soundtrack was added), but soon becomes identifiable as an integral part of its artistic structure. The visual design is stark and foreboding, and never too overtly, maintaining a manageable balance between reality and fantasy. The acting is of exceptionally high quality, and I genuinely don’t think I’ve seen so well-acted a film all year; every significant character, whether leading or supporting, is magnificent.
The Q&A was kept brief enough for me, though it was fairly informative. Director and writer Robert Eggers spoke engagingly about his keenness for genre films based upon personal themes and topics, and of his film’s apt genesis in inspirations of Eggers’ own past. Actor Ralph Ineson described how the cast was presented with lookbooks to inform them of the style that their director would be adopting for this quite specific setting of 1630s rural New England. Fellow actor Anya Taylor-Joy looked as though she’d just stepped out of a lookbook herself, clad in a beguiling Valentino dress whose vaguely pagan design seemed a canny fit for the film she was in attendance to promote. There were questions from the audience, and they were stupid, because by and large, members of the public who volunteer to pose questions at post-screening Q&As of genre films are wankers, and one look in their direction and I had confirmation of that prejudgement.
Tissues out, readers! My darling beloved departs this realm tomorrow. Not to heaven, but to Belfast, though which he considers preferable is up for debate. He’ll be catching the first two of my three titles tomorrow (back to my busy best!) – first is Hou Hsiao Hsien’s The Assassin, which had better be as brilliant as I’ve been led to believe; second is Lucile Hadzihalilovic’s welcome return to directing Evolution, and lastly is the second of six documentaries that I’ll see while at LFF this year, Evangelia Kranioti’s Exotica, Erotics, Etc. Night night!
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Today was a unique day for me. It was the first day since my actual first day at the London Film Festival, this very Sunday two years ago, when I saw only one film. Last year’s trip was a stressful mess at times, as I strove to cram my schedule with as many titles as possible. I’ve cut back a little this year, being more selective about the films I’m seeing, and striving now to make the best possible use of what time I have here. It’s mainly for my boyfriend tbh – Thomas doesn’t deserve to have his time at the fest characterised solely by periods of frantic panic and periods of soul-sapping boredom as I sit at my laptop writing up some obnoxious judgement on one film after another.
Never mind that I allowed myself an extra 30 minutes this morning to get through those write-ups more calmly – there was still a ridiculous rush to Curzon Soho for my one and only film of the day, Hungarian director László Nemes’s Son of Saul. I’m definitely going to keep going on about this: one film today, literally just one film. It’s like I’m at home. It’s just so average. And at 1pm! I feel so staid, so plain, so dispiritingly normal. Thomas and I were seated in the front row, all the better to get a good look at László, who is bae but needs to sell that Grand Prix on ebay stat for some better clothes because he’s rly got it, in a kind of meek, nerdy, Central European way.
This isn’t a fashion review, however, it’s a film review, or something similar: Son of Saul is very good, as good as you’ve read. Nemes is a first-time director of feature-length films and has a fine education in filmmaking from the master of masters, his tragically retired countryman Tarr Béla. He’s got an understandable desire to experiment, and an equally understandable flair for it. The film doesn’t strike you for its philosophical depth nor its psychological complexity, but its power and its purpose are just as profound as anything Tarr has made, which are as philosophically and psychologically rich as any film you’re likely to see. It’s an internal, subjective perspective on a time in history too often regarded with ponderous detachment; Son of Saul is perhaps the most accurate recreation of the Holocaust I can recall in film. It’s recreation, not representation.
Nemes’ ensuing Q&A was as enlightening as I’d expected, and it contributed further strata of appreciation on my account. Not that anything new was revealed to me, more that the director, accompanied by one of the film’s principal cast members Molnár Levente, was able to articulate my opinions about the film better than even I had been myself, and able to explain why I’d actually formed those opinions. He told the audience of his desires in making the film, which he struggled to finance, desires that provide perfect clarity for anyone searching for a specific interpretation on Son of Saul. It’s a corrective film, emphasising the true, appropriate placement of blame for the Holocaust not on the victims but on the perpetrators, stressing a sense of verisimilitude in the chaotic combination of chaos and order in the concentration camps, depicting the deprivation of innocence in the Sonderkommando Saul, played by Röhrig Géza, in his collusion in his own destruction, and thus suggesting a notion of what Nemes referred to as ‘the suicide of Europe’, a notion that carries particular profundity given Hungary’s recent deplorable actions against refugees (and those of many other nations both in and outside Europe). He expressed a disdain for the widescreen, poverty-porn fantasy of other Holocaust films, explaining that he wanted a physiological experience for his viewers, an intimate and unforgiving one, relating this to his decision to shoot on film. He compared this screening, which was on delicious 35mm film, to the film’s previous screening at LFF, which was on digital, and that was where the real disdain crept in. I harbour sympathy for those filmmakers trying to keep alive the art of shooting and projecting on film, though I certainly couldn’t agree with this one filmmaker’s assertion that the decline in this technique represents ‘the first regression in the history of cinema’. For many reasons, that’s a fairly ignorant and elitist notion to float, though a typically elitist-looking audience greeted that statement with the biggest applause I’ve yet heard at the festival.
Fuck that, there’s a whole day to be had from here on out. A whole day and a whole night, and a whole lot of booze. Thomas and I met with one of his friends from his time at university and her boyfriend and we spent a couple of hours with beers and banter in a nearby pub, which was more reasonably-priced than I’d expected. They left around 6pm, given that they’re normal people and had to get home because it’s a Sunday evening and that’s what normal people normally do; Thomas and I aren’t feeling especially normal, so we indulged in a rather less reasonably-priced Chinese dinner in Chinatown, and indulged further in a night at G-A-Y that just kept getting later and later. You’ve got the pictures to prove it now, or at least the ones I’m comfortable with exposing to humanity. Gin is just way too easy to drink. Chinese meals are just way too salty. As I write this diary entry, I’m way too dehydrated to go into detail, but it was a worthwhile night out, primarily because they played B*Witched, and there’s just about nothing an Irish gay boy loves more than a spirit and B*Witched.
A unique day is about to become rather less unique – wisely, there’s again only one film tomorrow (or today, as I write this), and it’s gloriously late: a screening of Robert Eggers’ horror movie The Witch at 6:30. Not a day of drinking ahead, but a day of shopping!!!!1!!!!!11!1!!! J J J J J
Jane Fonda’s career played before a crowd of around 300 hundred or so at the Baraca Resort in Santa Barbara. She was being honored last night by the Santa Barbara Film Festival with the Kirk Douglas award. The clips showed an always engaged Fonda who had the ability to keep her emotions just under the first layer, always threatening to burst through but never quite getting there. The beautiful Fonda over many decades of career highs and lows expands upwards and looms large like the greatest of redwoods. How do they stay so long? How do they remain so beautiful? Fonda, it’s worth mentioning, has never looked better than she did last night. Like the redwood she is all the more beautiful because she has settled into herself by no one’s definition of what she should be and how she should look.
When the montage finally arrived at her most recent performance in Paolo Sorrentino’s Youth, a stupefying career moment of sheer genius, it was apparent that this was also among Fonda’s very best incarnations. There is a permanent flame, like the one that peeks up from the mountain range on the drive back from Santa Barbara to Los Angeles. It burns there inexplicably, hot and dangerous. This actress who tells Harvey Keitel the god’s honest truth about his career, her career and the future of Hollywood threatens to burn everything that comes near it. It stood out among the many permanent fixtures of Fonda we fans carry around with us.
Before the ceremony began, a few of us were invited to meet Jane Fonda. My date was my old friend Michael Grei who knows everything about the Oscars, movies and especially Jane Fonda. She politely shook our hands. I did not ask to take Michael’s picture with her but I regret that now. After all, she would not have cared. We blew the moment. I also blathered on about a podcast I remember hearing Jane Fonda interviewed for. I told her it was called “Death, Sex and Taxes.” She said she didn’t remember it. “Death and sex I know,” she said. “But taxes? I know nothing about taxes.” It took me a few hours of restless sleep to remember it was actually called “Death, Sex and Money.” Oh, how my inferior brain disappoints me at crucial moments like that one.
She then talked warmly with Jeff Wells, whom she really seems to genuinely like talking to. Jeff asked her if she went back to Vietnam ever and for a second, a brief flicker of fear washed over her until she realized he was just speaking generally about the country and the people. He wasn’t going to go “there.”
What I noticed about her was that she was sturdy. She knew who she was and she suffered no fools. She was direct and honest. Before long, Michael and I scurried away and back to our table where there was probably too much wine.
Two women were there to pay tribute to Fonda. Diane Lane and Elizabeth Banks, both of whom had witty, inspirational words. Sure, they were kids or not even born for much of her career but the thing about Fonda — and we know this because of Grace and Jackie where she makes fun of herself by saying things like “I look pretty when I cry” — she redefines herself each year. She is not left behind but is very present in the lives of actresses today who battle the kind of shit Fonda and her gang help kick down way back when. Those walls were built back up and this time with bricks. Fonda’s presence will teach Banks and Lane to help teach others to find the right strategy to tear them down again.
Fonda’s speech was appropriately humble and to the point. She thanked Kirk Douglas and paid tribute to Santa Barbara, not to mention Lane and Banks. Throughout Fonda’s life people have always referred to her in terms of how she looks. That’s the first question everyone asks and the first way people describe women, especially older women. The next question is how old she is. Fonda has worked hard to look that good and she’s always been honest about it, guiding women into physical fitness for decades. Here, she was dressed up for the glamorous world of gods and goddesses. I suddenly remembered back a year or two prior when I’d been flying back from Cannes and there was Jane Fonda waiting to board the plane. She wore big glasses and street clothes. She stood quietly unadorned and unnoticed in the corner. I remembered that podcast where she talked about how much she loved being alone.
As I watched her last night, I was reminded of how divided she is as a person between wanting to be alone, high up in the mountains, and wanting to be vibrantly social:
“Well, the mother that I remember is very different than the mother I researched. I remember her as a hypochondriac, febrile, nervous, scared, insecure person. And she was all of those things. But then I also discovered that other people’s impressions of her were: vibrant, like, men were attracted to her like moths to a flame. She was very social. I have her and my father in me, I’m like a bear. I hibernate and like to be alone, and that’s my father. That’s the bigger part of me. But then when I come out of hibernation I like to party real hard and that’s my mother.”
Hollywood hasn’t made room for someone like Jane Fonda. She’s full of vitality. She refuses to snuff out her sexuality and in so doing, she’s making room for herself and anyone else who follows gracefully, forcefully, and willingly behind her.